Every story like this one always begins with a map. A story such as mine might be called an adventure. I prefer to call it a discovery. It had taken only a few years to change my world, from a young boy growing up in obscurity to one of the most important person in the land. I’ve met Kings and Queens, mages and magic users. I’ve travelled through lay-lines and jumped through the Dark Void… but none of that really matters.
All that matters to me is that for the first time in my life, I am truly happy. But in order for you to understand my story… you’re going to have to step into my world.
It all begins in Westchester…
Chapter 2: A Stranger In My Life
Charles and Raven's lives change forever when a stranger rides into Westchester. It is the begining of a new world.
My sister, Raven, was my partner in this increasingly harsh and unexpected adventure called life. Only a year separated us in age, and she had been my best friend since the day she had been born. I couldn’t imagine my world without her. Often I felt like we were two halves of a whole soul, meant to remain together forever. And for a while… it seemed as if we always would.
Our family was a small one by Westchester standards. Our father was considered an important man in the town, as a ranger of the Wildwood he was under the direct order and protection of the King. King Sebastian Shaw ruled over many counties, and Westchester was one of them. As its name suggested, it was situated on the far West of the King’s map.
We lived on the edge of the Town, in a large manor house, the forest that surrounded us was father’s duty to protect, but it was also mine and Raven’s playground. I thought that our lives would be simple. We would marry from within our own town; we would live next door to each other and raise our children together.
But as the autumn faded and gave way to the biting cold of my eleventh winter, something happened that changed our lives forever. It was if the cold wind that blew in from the north awoke something in me. Something deep and troubling. I opened my eyes one morning to the terrifying and sudden realisation that I could hear the thoughts of those around me. I tried to hide and ignore it, but ignoring it only made things worse, louder, until I couldn’t hide anymore. I found myself screaming for it to end. My father threatened to lock me away, force me into a solitary life where I would bother no one, and no one would bother me. They thought I had run mad.
The local healer was called, and he diagnosed me with my true condition. Magic had awoken in me and I was full of potential, a gift from my ancestors. My parents were stunned, there had not been a magic user in the Xavier family for hundreds of years, and even in the South City, mages were rare. So I began cultivating my talents, no longer afraid of the things I could do. More astonishingly, the year after, Raven followed me into danger. Her powers flared almost violently, her reaction to them had been the same as mine. She could not hear voices, but her body could change into whatever she wished it to be. At first it frightened her, but I was selfishly glad that I was no longer alone.
We started to worry then, that news of there being two young magic users in Westchester would one day make its way to the Capital. But the years passed by without event, and we grew complacent. Maybe no one would look for us, we were so very far away after all. Besides, there were no mages around here. The Dark Keep had been empty all of my life, and all of my father’s life too. No one remembered the last time a mage had lived in the tall tower, made of dark-stone, and Westchester had been unprotected for a long time.
No mages were a good thing as far as I was concerned. A child who processed magic abilities needed to be apprenticed before they turned eighteen. I was sixteen now, running out of time to be imprisoned. Raven might have disagreed, she no longer hid who she was, but I wanted other things. This power to see into others felt like a burden, not a gift, for all it made my parents so very proud.
I shook myself out of my memories, pulled my cloak closer around me and watched Raven gather up the logs. We were hunting through the undergrowth for large bits of fallen wood. Raven believed in the old ways, that nature would provide what was needed. If she asked the forest for a gift, then it would show her where to find it. Right now, she was deciding what to take and what to leave for the woodlouse. I however, was more sceptical. It seemed to me that the King’s loggers also found what they wanted with a lot less scrabbling around in the icy cold.
But it was just one of Raven’s many charms, which she seemed to have in abundance, and I seemed less enchanting by comparison. She was my mirror of opposites, her bright blonde locks were striking next to my dark hair. She was considered a beauty, and I was merely ‘sweet’. She was wasted here, hidden away, even I knew she ought to be in the City. But I couldn’t let her go.
“Here, take these,” Raven said tipping freezing logs into my outstretched arms. “I think I hear someone coming up the road.”
Raven pushed her hood back, her hands white with the cold. There was a worried expression on her face. We had not travelled far from the edges of the road today, the one that wound its way straight through the Wild wood to the main Southern City where the Royal court was presiding in the milder southern weather.
“More than one someone,” I remarked, straining to hear. I pushed my powers outwards, feeling for the touch of unfamiliar minds. I found them, riding towards us, horses hooves pounding on the unforgiving frozen earth. “I can feel three. There might be more. One is… one is more than the others.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Raven demanded. Her harsh tone told me that she was scared.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. I couldn’t describe it, but the mind had felt different, warm and inviting, yet cold and dangerous. I already knew that I was afraid of this person; he would bring nothing good into our lives. “We need to get off the road.”
We hurried out of the way. It might only be some of father’s rangers, but it might also be soldiers. Either way, it was unsafe for us to be spotted, soldiers only ever spelled trouble, and we would look like a fun game to men having ridden through cold days and nights without any company.
The logs clattered to the ground at my feet. A short blast from a trumpet signalled the arrival of soldiers on horseback, hallooing through the forest. I was so amazed to see them that I stood to watch them disappear out of sight. Raven tugged me back down roughly, but it was too late. I had not realised there was a second group behind them.
“Hold!” a man shouted. “In the bushes. There. I saw something.”
I held my breath and Raven squeezed my hand tightly.
“Identify yourself,” another man called in a harsher and more terrifying voice. “Or I will fire.”
I scrabbled to my feet. They were unlikely to loose their arrows upon me, and especially not upon Raven. But they could certainly hurt us in other ways, however right now; it was the lesser of the two evils.
“Ha!” the first man exclaimed, lowering his bow and arrow. “A pair of wood nymphs!”
Following this there was a scattering of laughter, but the stern faced man on the black horse did not change his aim. He had an arrow pointed at me, hovering in the air by magic, his hand outstretched behind it. He would hit me directly in the heart if he so much as twitched. I held my breath, caught between fear and amazement.
I raised my eyes to meet him. His gaze was strikingly hard and his eyes almost black. He did not seem to notice my gaze upon him, simply looked straight through me. I felt sick with fear, he was the man whose mind I had felt just moments before.
His shoulders seemed broadest under his cloak, but it was impossible to tell from beneath all that fur. He looked strong and vicious. I guessed he couldn’t be much older than twenty-five, maybe a little more judging by the coldness in his eyes. We stared at each other for what seemed like the longest time, until he lowered his arrow, floating it back into its place with all the others slung on his back.
“We are searching for Ranger Brian Xavier, perhaps you might direct us,” one of the soldiers said, his gaze fell upon Raven as he spoke.
“Brian Xavier is our father sir,” Raven replied. I shot her a warning look, Raven never seemed to fear anyone, but I feared these people. They had come to change our lives, and I knew this as a certain for the fact they had brought a mage with them.
The man in the black cloak suddenly looked at us with renewed interest. His face brightened, but he still repelled me. I wanted to be as far away from him as I could.
“My name is Erik Lehnsherr. I am seeking your father on the King’s business. Perhaps you would ride with us, to show us the way,” the man wearing black said, introducing himself. It did not make me feel any easier to put a name to his face.
I felt Raven’s comforting hand resting on my shoulder. I could hear in her mind her excitement over the stranger. Her apparent want of his arrival into our lives made me feel ill. But it was too late to hide now, Raven had announced who we were, and the mage wanted us.
I shrugged. We could hardly refuse, and we had no chance at out running them. Raven stepped forward eagerly.
“Come on little blonde flower,” the solider with a kind face said. He wanted Raven to climb up behind him on his horse, and I watched in alarm, as Raven didn’t even hesitate.
I stood distressed and frozen as the mage, Lehnsherr, spurred his horse over to me. I suddenly felt very exposed.
“Young Sir,” he said to me, coming to a stop just inches away.
I watched Raven swing herself up gracefully behind the solider, wrapping her arms around him comfortably. She smiled and laughed as the horse took off at a trot. I felt a chill run down my spine.
Lehnsherr must have thought I was simple, for he jumped down from his horse and pulled me towards him sharply. I lost my breath for a moment as he threw me up into the saddled as if I weighed nothing at all. I was alarmed to find him suddenly seated so close behind me, his hand resting on my stomach.
“Take your hands off me,” I warned him, with more strength that I felt.
“If I do as you command sir, we will both fall,” he replied with unhidden amusement.
I scowled, but it was wasted since he couldn’t see my face. I didn’t like him touching me. It felt possessive, as if he might at any moment ride off into the forest and kidnap me. I tried to shuffle in the saddle, but that only seemed to bring him closer to me, and his hand held me tighter. By the time we left the road, I was flush faced and painfully embarrassed. This was as close to a stranger as I had ever been, and it was making me nervous. I could feel his breath on the back of my neck, his touch upon me was warm. I couldn’t describe how he made me feel, but I wanted it to end.
And then, suddenly there was my father, standing on the porch looking out at us. His face darkened as he saw us, and I heard his mind clearly.
He’s here. I knew I couldn’t hide them forever.
My heart sank even further. I knew then, that whoever this man was who had carried me from the woods, my father had no hope of fighting him. The stranger had won before he had even arrived.
Chapter 3: A Time For Grace
Charles discovers what lies in the wait for his future, and decides to fight it every step of the way.
Wheee chapter two!! So excited to finally be getting this out there, been writing on my lonesome for weeks. Thank you commenters and Kudos leavers!
It apparently came to no one’s surprise that the mage Erik Lehnsherr took up residence in the Dark Keep. The soldiers continued on their way to the Southern Capital and for the most, life returned to normal. Raven continued to live in her happy little world where nothing touched her, but I was creeping towards my wits end. Lehnsherr had spoken to my father alone in his study on the day he had arrived, and then he had left without a word to me. Father only took people into the study when it was a matter of the up most importance, and I had no idea what had been said, but I could guess.
Lehnsherr had looked at me strangely as he’d left, as if he was measuring me up for a role in his life. For Raven he had a smile, which I had no doubt was a rare event. Father would not talk to me for days, he spent almost a month hiding in his study, until I finally pushed open the door and demanded to know what had been said. My father looked up at me, and then proceeded to tell me my worst nightmare.
“Erik Lehnsherr is a war-mage,” my father said, he leant over his desk for a moment and covered his face with his hands. I heard him sigh, but it was more like a cry of pain. I waited nervously, war-mages were the worst kind of mages, extremely powerful, and always as close to the crown as real royalty.
“He’s come for me and Raven, hasn’t he…” I said. I was desperate for my father to say more, but his face was aghast when he looked up. I knew he had been scared all of these years, proud, but also afraid of where our connection to magic would take us. A mage’s life was never an easy one. I had just never realised how deep his fears had run.
“Charles, a war-mage can only take one apprentice,” he said calmly, as if he was trying not to frighten me, but the damage had already been done. “It’s time you started looking into your future Charles. Your sister would welcome this, but you… you’ve never wanted this, I know, I’ve watched you battle your powers ever since they awoke. I just want you to be ready… in case it is you.”
I could feel tears in my eyes now. I couldn’t image a world in which I wasn’t with Raven, and this war-mage had come to split us apart. I didn’t for one moment imagine that he would chose me, I was awkward and obstinate, and Raven was anything but. I hated to have to break Raven’s happiness by telling her what I can learned today, but I felt I owed it to her. I’d step aside for her if that was what she wanted, but she needed to know, that she’d be walking this path without me, and that it would break my heart.
“I understand father,” I said staring down at the ground. I wasn’t about to cry in front of him, but it was easier said than done. For every moment of silence, I imagined something new and terrible to meet me in the future.
“No, you don’t Charles. You have no idea,” he said standing. He took a book from the shelf behind him, and then walked towards me. It was a book of history, more specifically, a book of magical history. I had never noticed this book before, and even if I had, I probably would have shunned it out of spite.
“You need to be prepared, because I can no longer protect you. Lehnsherr brought a letter with him. The King has claimed you and Raven as his wards, and the law says you are no longer my children.”
I stared at him open mouthed. This was worse than I had ever expected. A father could refuse to let his children go, even at the King’s command, but not if the King claimed the children as under his own protection. I took the book out of his shaking hands and stared at it. I wondered how much of this my mother knew. For her, it was all about family honour and appearances. She must have seen her dreams coming true the moment the war-mage arrived, bringing power and prestige to her family. She would not understand my reluctance, so I would not reveal it to her.
Since the beginning of time there has always been magic and those that can bend it to their will. These magic-users have for many years been called mages, and those of extreme ability are often recruited into Royal service, into their personal guard and army, for the protection of the realm. These mages have been commonly referred to as war-mages, and it is these magic users that have sparked the fear of magic into the hearts of the ordinary people.
Ordinary people I thought. Already I felt separated from the world I had once known, and my place in it. Now it would always be them and us. I’d be on the outside of the community, inspiring fear into those around me, a scary story to be told to children.
The training of mages has always been clouded with mystery. For an outsider, their world has always been a closed order. But what we do know, from when we wave goodbye to our children, delivering them into the care of their new magical guardians is this… mages may train as many apprentices as they feel able to. Out of these apprentices one will be chosen as their life partner, as it is said, true power can only be achieved through the joining of kindred souls. For a war-mage, one apprentice is chosen, and almost always, this young magic user is eventually bound to their teacher, in all ways possible for a person to be bound.
I shivered. Bound. A prisoner the book meant. There was no mention of kindred souls for the war-mage. Maybe as a fighter, he was not expected to find love and happiness in his liaison. It sounded more like a business partnership, and it only filled me with more dread. I didn’t want to think of Raven trapped in that dark tower, tied to Lehnsherr, her life devoted to him and his teachings, unable to leave.
As it was, the mage gave us a further weeks grace before he called us to the Keep. Father looked grey and ashen faced as he saw us off, but mother was beaming. She had insisted we take our best clothes with us, goodness only knew why, I certainly wasn’t seeing an opportunity to wear them. Raven was smiling as we climbed out of the carriage at the end of the winding path to the Keep. The servants trailed behind us with our belongings, but still the pack on my back was heavy. The mage, Lehnsherr was standing on the doorstep of his tower, as imposing as the large structure behind him. I caught myself staring and looked away, every footstep feeling heavier than the last, as if I was walking through mud.
“Put your belongings in the hall, and follow me,” Lehnsherr said abruptly.
I saw his gaze linger on me for a moment longer than it did my sister, and I felt immediately afraid. He’d singled me out for something the first time we had met, and I dreaded to think what it might be. I was sure, he would not pick me over Raven, so, was I simply here for his amusement? I tried to read his mind as I followed along behind him, but he caught me, turning to face me with a grin.
“Now now little blue-eyed boy, if you have questions, you may ask them,” he said with amusement. I felt myself blush deeply and dropped my eyes to the ground. It had been stupid to try and sneak into a war-mage’s mind, one that had been trained to sense those kinds of attacks.
“My name is Charles,” I replied shortly. I didn’t care if I angered him. It was only fair he knew I disliked him as much as he obviously did me. Couldn’t he have just put us out of our misery and chosen Raven from the off? Why go through this charade?
He grinned again, a smile with predatory teeth as if bringing me closer and warning me away with that simple expression.
“Little blue-eyed Charles, you are welcome to the Dark Keep. And your sister, Raven, please, do not make me ask you again to follow me…”
There was a warning in that, but Raven did not seem to notice it. She followed behind him happily, but I dragged my heels. Once the servants left I felt even more vulnerable, and Lehnsherr’s eyes burned into me like fire. I hated him. Hated him for his intense stare, hated him for the strange uncomfortable feelings he gave me, hated him for all the darkness he would bring into my life. But most of all I hated him for the smile he gave Raven, and the scowl he gave me.
He left us in the kitchen with the old woman, who he introduced as ‘Cook’. It seemed he enjoyed our company as much I enjoyed his, and couldn’t wait to get away. But Cook was overjoyed to have us, and began feeding us as if she thought we were starving children from the fields.
“Why has he brought us both here?” I asked her as she ladled more soup into my bowl. “I thought war-mages only apprenticed one.”
She looked at me with a raised eyebrow, her quizzical face might have been funny had our situation not been so serious.
“You are a clever one, aren’t you?” she replied with a half smile. “But I am afraid I have no answer for you, child. I have served Erik all of his life, and he has never been one for the rules. Besides, when one hears of two children, fair-of-face, filled with magic, one does not let them get away.”
“What do you mean, only one?” Raven asked, she looked at me as if I had betrayed her in some way. “We are here to compete?”
I scoffed into my bowl. I had, despite knowing I should, not told Raven what our father had told me, nor what I had learnt in that book. I could not bear to ruin her happiness. I could see the revelations in her mind, clearly blooming across her face. I did not have to listen for them; I knew she was thinking the same as me and I suddenly felt bad for laughing at her.
“He’ll split us up. He’ll take you away from me!” she exclaimed with sudden realisation. “I refuse. I wont do any magic, unless he takes us both.”
Cook patted her shoulder.
“See the great dilemma you present to him,” she said with a smile, she held up a gleaming saucepan in front of Raven’s face. “Look, all blonde hair and beauty, a brightness in your face, full of life,” she said, lifting a lock of Raven’s hair with all the gentleness of an affectionate mother. “And you…” she continued looking at me. “Yes, well…” she turned Raven’s face towards me, and Raven looked at me as if she was seeing me for the first time. “It’s all behind his eyes, isn’t it?”
“What is?” Raven asked, with a slight pout.
“Everything,” Cook continued. “Do not be too hard on Erik, consider the choice he must make.”
“He must make…” I echoed. “Then he will make it.” I did not like her riddled way of speaking about us, as if we were simply measured by the luck of nature giving us symmetrical and pleasing faces. It was the first time since I had seen Lehnsherr that I wondered if Raven’s place beside him was so assured. Why had he brought me here?
“I want to go to my room,” I said climbing off the high stool with as much grace as I could manage. I couldn’t hide the anger I felt anymore. “I do have a room, don’t I?”
“Of course you do,” Cook replied, looking slightly perturbed. “But…”
I didn’t wait for her to finish, but stormed over to the door, wrenched it open and stepped flush with the war-mage. I looked up at him in horror. His expression was surprised, and then he pushed me roughly into the wall. My head hit the cold stone, and for a moment I couldn’t breathe.
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
It was not an overstatement to say that I was afraid of him right now, and I could see over his shoulder that Raven was staring open mouthed. Even Cook looked rather alarmed.
“I asked you a question!” Lehnsherr shouted. I looked up at him defiant.
If you hit me, I’ll hit you back. I pushed into his mind, seeing his eyes widen. His hold on my arms softened slightly, and he stepped slightly closer.
“How did you do that? I heard you in my mind? You shouldn’t be able to do that.”
I had him on the back foot, confused, he’s underestimated me and now I had the upper-hand for the moment. I continued to stare at him, until he realised that he had all eyes upon him, and stepped back, his hands releasing me.
“Your father told me you could hear the minds of others, he did not say you could speak within them,” Lehnsherr continued looking at me as if I was something he might do better to destroy than nurture. Then his expression changed. “You still haven’t told me where you are going.”
I scowled at him.
“I want to go to my room. I have one, don’t I?” I said, echoing the same question I had put to Cook. Unless we were expected to sleep on the floor like a dog, there must be somewhere set-aside for us. After all, this was our home now.
“Come then,” Lehnsherr said angrily, stalking out of the room.
I looked back at my sister and Cook, and they stared back at me with alarmed expressions, as if I was crazy for angering our master. Maybe I was crazy, but I had nothing to lose here. The mage could hate me all he wanted to, I cared nothing for his good opinion; he was only using me after all. Tearing me away from all that I wanted.
I followed him up the stairs, pausing only to grab the pack I had carried up here. He opened a door to a large bedroom and stepped inside. I followed him with some trepidation.
“Here, I hope you like it.”
There wasn’t much to like, but I didn’t dislike it. The largest feature was obviously the bed, in the centre of the right-hand wall. It had four posters and curtains to pull around. I walked towards it, climbed on and lay down, chucking the pack onto the floor. I hoped the mage would go away and leave me alone, but he remained near the doorway, still staring at me.
“You are going to behave, aren’t you Charles?” he asked almost hesitantly.
I looked back at him with narrowed eyes, and then rolled over. He could stare at my back if he wanted to. I didn’t care anymore. But I wouldn’t speak to him.
You are going to make this very difficult for me. I heard him think, before he closed the door. Good, I thought in return. But with him gone, the room suddenly felt rather cold. I kicked off my shoes and climbed under the covers, refusing to feel sad, refusing to feel anything.
Chapter 4: Seven Months To The Day
Erik comes to realise that Charles isn't going to make his life easy in the Keep. Training him is torture.
A switch to Erik's POV in this chapter.
I knew without a doubt that I should have left Charles Xavier where he was. He was a child of the forest, he belonged in Westchester where he would live a good life, and chose his own path. He would have been happy; even though he would have mourned the loss of his sister until the day he died.
So why had I been transfixed by the boy? I had no doubt that it was he, who out of the two Xavier children who had most magic ability. The boy with the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen, could one day rival even my own abilities, with the right training. I had not encountered someone with so much potential for a long time, mages were rare and children like the Xavier siblings were ever rarer still.
But still, I asked myself why I insisted on taking him. I’d already decided I would choose the girl. Rumour was rife that she was a pretty and sweet girl, who would make me the perfect mate. She was full of enthusiasm for the life she had been called for, ready to learn, eager to throw herself into my world. We would be the greatest of teams. So why then, was it, that all I could see was Charles’ damn blue eyes?
I found Cook still in the kitchen. This place was bleak and full of shadows. It had been unlived in for many a generation, and I could feel it in the cold stone of the walls. Raven had gone, perhaps to her own room, maybe to explore. I knew she wouldn’t try running away, and even if she did, she’d never get past the perimeter magic-wards and fused metal fence and gates. But she wasn’t the one I was worried about trying to run away.
“Well, nice first impression you’ve made of yourself Erik,” Cook said, setting a bowl of soup down in front of me when I took up a perch on one of the kitchen stools. I’d always liked her straightforward manner of speaking, the way she ignored being polite and always turned out to be right in the long run. “You know the boy hates you already, he’ll hate you even more now.”
I dipped the spoon into the soup and found that her words stung me. I had not meant to spoil their lives, but there were far more unsympathetic mages out there, who would have made their lives hell, until they were old enough to be useful. I thought it was rather unfair to be hated already. I could not help my hard nature, my life had not been an easy one, and I had not been raised by loving parents. The mage who had taught me had died before he could make me an offer of a better life, and I had fallen into the King’s service, knowing that I never again know any kindness.
“He hates me?” I asked. I could see her smirking at me from the side of her mouth.
“Good luck taming that one. You’ll have an easier life with the girl. Give the boy to Emma, she’ll love him, his powers already mimic hers.”
I scowled. In the chaos of travelling here, and the anguish over trying to choose one of the Xavier’s to come with me, I’d almost forgotten the deal. Emma Frost, the girl who had always been one step behind me in life, had a claim over one of these children. I’d supposed it was King Shaw’s way of favouring me, that he allowed me to go ahead and chose my mate, leaving Emma with the spare. I’d crowed over her at the time, secretly pleased, now I half wished she’d been the one to choose, and I would have known no different. However, I knew she would have snatched at Charles the moment she saw him, and for some reason, that awoke a rather possessive need in me. Raven was my match, I knew that… But Charles. I knew I couldn’t let him go without regret.
“I don’t want Emma having him. She’d ruin him,” I replied. I had no idea what I was saying any further than it simply coming out of my mouth. Inadvertently I’d betrayed my torn feelings to the old woman, and she was bound to plague me about it forever. She laughed, and it was mocking.
“They say, a mage can bond to a soul… that he cannot escape them… it would be just your luck you’re in love with that little piece of trouble,” she said, looking as if this was the most amusing thing she had ever heard of.
“I am not in love with him. Be quiet old woman, and keep your stories to yourself,” I snapped, fixing her with a hard stare and eating in silence. She just looked at me as if keeping quiet was the last thing she was going to do, and grabbed a mop to start cleaning.
This had all be a dreadful mistake, I could feel it. But I knew something; I at least had time on my side. The King had not wanted to be without both his war-mages, so Emma had been forced to remain behind. I had already gone against my orders, having meant to send the other Xavier back with the soldiers to the Southern Capital, so that Emma could apprentice him and start training. I’d broken the agreement by keeping them both. Emma would not forgive me lightly.
Back in the small room I had chosen to be my study, I wrote her a letter. I decided to use the one thing I had to my advantage to appease her. Her lack of knowing anything different to what I told her.
She would be angry, but I knew how her mind worked. She’d forced me to see it more than once. She would not relish the prospect of having a moping miserable child under her feet any more than I did, and would eventually see that she was better off. Neither she nor I had been in a hurry to apprentice someone to ourselves, the idea of looking after a child and then bonding to the adult had always sounded like too much effort and a little unsavoury. Much better the apprentice came to us fully grown, young enough to learn, but old enough to be of certain interest.
Just like Charles. He was certainly interesting.
“For fuck sake,” I cursed, slamming my hand on the desk. That was enough. It was time to start doing what I had brought them here for, training.
Six Months Later
“I fucking hate you!” Charles was screaming at me. He was always shouting at me, some variation of this theme when I forced him to do something he didn’t want to do. Today he was trying to push fire away from himself, before it burned him. It was a slightly cruel way of teaching, but who was going to stop me? Charles might, if he could. He was certainly strong enough to; he just didn’t want to believe it.
He struggled in his chains, tied against the wooden post. Raven was busy balancing on a high beam behind me, she was becoming an expert in gymnastics. I wasn’t sure quite how helpful that was going to be, but it kept her amused while I tortured Charles… I mean, trained with Charles.
“I know that Charles, you tell me every day, now do something about it, or I’ll burn your face off,” I told him, swiping at him with the naked flame once more. He shrank back, but he could not escape. This seemed to be the only way to get through to him, and he made me more and more frustrated when he wouldn’t even try.
“Burning his face off would be counter-productive. What would you have to stare at all day long if you did that?” I heard Raven call towards me, I turned to scowl at her and bark an order to be quiet. She simply stuck out her tongue and bent over backwards on the beam like a crab. Her flexible backbone sometimes made me feel ill.
Damn little minx. She saw everything. Maybe I did spend far to long gazing at Charles, but it was fruitless trying to stop. His presence was like a magnet, but still I refused to believe it meant anything at all. Charles was a pain in my side, resisting me at every opportunity, as if he found pleasure in pissing me off.
I could see Charles trying to concentrate, his eyes narrowed and he stared at the fire intently. Technically speaking I didn’t have to chain him up to the post, but there was some sadistic pleasure to be had in that, especially in fighting him into submission. Without warning the fire bent to the side, searing across his shoulder. He screamed and I threw the touch to the floor. Raven was on me in a flash.
“I thought this was training!” she shouted. I pushed her roughly to the side, where she tripped over her own feet and landed awkwardly on the floor.
“I’m sorry Charles,” I whispered, running my hand over his blistering skin. It healed itself perfectly under my touch, becoming smooth and soft again. I left my hand were it lay, against his neck, feeling his pulse jump beneath my fingers.
Raven wrenched me away from him, inspecting my healing before wrapping her arms around Charles and the post.
“Why is he always chained up?” she asked bitterly. “You’re sick Lehnsherr!”
Charles was looking at me curiously, as if he was wondering the same thing. I always felt he was trying to bait me into something, and he made my blood boil just by looking at me. I felt my temper flaring.
“Look, you are under my control, and I will do what I want with you. This is how I am going to train you. Charles controls the fire or his face gets melted off. I’m a pretty good healer, but even I might struggle at un-melting a face.”
Raven stared at me aghast, before I pulled her away from Charles just as roughly as I’d shoved her over a moment ago. She was used to be and Charles fighting by now, but still she liked to get under my feet.
“Get back on the beam!” I shouted in her face, so loud that she flinched away from me, and I knew that I had scared her. Frightening Raven was something I never struggling to do, for all her quick wit and quicker temper. Keeping Charles in check however was always more difficult. We were only six months in, and Charles had already realised that most of my threats were fairly empty. Raven however still believed there was a dungeon I could lock her in. … Hell there might even be a dungeon down in the cellar; maybe Raven knew something I didn’t?
Why has Raven spent all morning on the beam? Are you training her to fight an army of acrobats? Charles’ voice in my mind was always a strange feeling. The only other person I had ever met that could do that was Emma, and it had taken her years to learn. Charles could use this part of his powers without even trying. So why then was he so slow with everything else? And who am I fighting? A Dungeon master?
“You will do what I tell you!” I shouted.
I knew Charles was trying to wind me up; he was so very good at it. If he continued for long enough I’d eventually send him to his room. That punishment had sounded a great idea, until I’d realised three months ago that Charles simply counted that as a bonus, and far from going hungry in there, Cook was taking him up meals. He wasn’t going to trick me today.
“Yes Sir!” Charles shouted back at me in mockery.
God I hated these Xavier’s.
“How do you move the metal?” Charles asked me without so much as a hello.
Over this past month, he’d taken to coming to see me unasked. Walking into my study without even knocking. It at first had been a shock to see him looking at me with great interest every time I looked up from my book, now I missed him if he wasn’t there. A silent presence in the chair by the fire. It was as if the impossible had happened, and he’d stopped looking at me like the enemy, and had started to believe in what I could show him. I suppose it had happened the day my incessant bullying had finally allowed him to control and move fire.
“The same way you can speak and see inside someone else’s mind, I suppose,” I replied, bookmarking my page and waiting for the rest of Charles’ query. There was always more. He was an avid question asker, and hardly every accepted the first answer.
“But I don’t know how I do that,” he confessed, and then walked towards me, looking down at the book I had been reading. “Can all mages read minds?”
“You know that I cannot.”
“Yes, but, you said there was another… Emma, she can.”
“Yes, she can. But I don’t think it comes as easy for her, as it does you,” I explained. Sometimes speaking to Charles like this made me nervous. It was so much easier when we were training together, pushing him further and further to the brink of what he thought he could do, and forcing him way beyond. He spent most of his time looking terrified, and now, his face was calm and trusting. I wished he would trust me outside of this room too.
“Why?” he asked. He was always asking why.
“I believe that most mages are born with one ability. Yours is your ability to read minds, Raven can change her appearance and I can control metal. It is a natural ability, tell me, what does it feel like to hear someone else’s mind?”
Charles looked down at his feet. I knew he was suddenly uncomfortable. We had never discussed this before… in fact we had never discussed much before. For a mad moment, I wanted to leap up from my chair and take his face in my hands. I wanted to touch him. He looked up at me sharply, as if he’d heard my intentions and there was a slight blush across his cheeks.
“It feels… nice,” he told me. The blush deepened.
I leant back in my chair and just looked at him. I didn’t know how he could help me so much, and yet, he sometimes spoke to me as if I was his greatest friend. He made me confused in my heart, and I wished this could be easier.
“All mages can control the elements, earth, air, fire, water… to a certain degree. Mages who reach such ability with them are called to the crown to be war-mages… like myself. It is my intention that you will be too.”
“What if I can’t? What if I fail?” he asked me, looking concerned. I knew he doubted himself; it was what held him back. I knew I had a great deal to do with that too, and I knew once I let him go, he would fly away from me.
“Then you will become a mage, and spend your life teaching others to surpass you. But for us, serving the crown is the highest honour we can aspire to,” I told him. It was not an easy life, as I wouldn’t have chosen it if I’d had a choice, but who had a choice?
“You will apprentice Raven soon?” he asked suddenly, surprising me. It was like Charles to be blunt, but this caught me off guard. “She is further on in her training than me.”
“Yes she is,” I conceded.
I knew I should tell him, the truth of why I’d kept him here for so long, but I couldn’t. Because I just didn’t know. I kept it deep within my mind so that he wouldn’t see it either. I could keep Emma’s wandering telepathic hands out if I needed to, however I wasn’t sure I could fend off Charles if he really tried.
He nodded as if my explanation solved everything. I didn’t know how he’d found out, but he knew that whoever wasn’t apprenticed to me, was ultimately going to belong to Emma Frost. The strange cool woman they had never seen in the Southern Capital. I knew it worried Charles, but there was nothing I could do about it. I’d kept him as long as I could. I would have to chose soon, and do it quick before my wavering heart betrayed me.
Chapter 5: Singing Another Tune
Charles continues in his harsh life in the West, and learns what the future has in store for him.
Everyone is a little slap happy in this fic... but like i said above, life is rough in the West. Sorry Charles.
Erik brought the cane down on my knuckles with a hard slap. I winced. The sharp pain never lessened, but over the long year spent in the Dark Keep, I’d grown used to it. The rod never marked me for long, and I wondered just exactly what Erik thought he was teaching me when he hurt me. I didn’t care to ask him, just looked at my hands that had turned rough over the year. He wasn’t opposed to making me scrub things either, floors, tables, pots and pans. My life here wasn’t comfortable, but I’d given up expecting it to be.
I looked into his stern face now, all sharp angles and strong jaw hidden by a scruff of a beard. Did he want me to remember that he was the strongest of the pair of us? Because I knew that already. Or that he owned me? I knew that too. I could hardly forget, being locking away with him, a prisoner the world viewed as having being bestowed a great honour. Being around Erik wasn’t an honour, it was just annoying.
I didn’t know what it was about me that made him so angry, or why he struggled to show me the kind of affection he showed Raven. I knew I was difficult, he had been right from the off, foretelling I’d cause him nothing but trouble. But he could have sent me away at any time he chose; instead he’d kept me close like a thorn in his side. I could see the anguish I gave him daily written on his face, and yet he’d spent hours dedicatedly teaching me new ways to access the powers that had been given me. I didn’t understand, and maybe he didn’t either, because there was no discernable answer to be gleaned from his mind either.
“I know, I know,” he said almost bored, as I smarted from the blow. “You hate me. Sing me another tune Charles.”
Having gained tolerable control over fire, we’d moved onto water. I preferred water, it felt calm after the raging heat of the flames, but I did not let that show. I suspected if Erik knew I was enjoying myself, he’d find a way to put a stop to it. So I kept a miserable look on my face at all times. Which, considering my situation, wasn’t hard to achieve at all. I scowled and stared down the ugly wooden cup that held the water, and pulled my heavy copper-coloured, fur trimmed cloak around my shoulders some more. It was freezing in the Keep today, and I was surprised the water hadn’t already turned to ice. I could even see my breath hovering in front of my face like a mist.
I concentrated on the water; I could feel it inside the cup. Sense its limits against the wooden edge, but I had yet to call it to obey me. I knew that if I tried hard enough, I could do as Erik was commanding me to, but I had had enough of his harsh teachings for today. I let my mind wander instead.
It had been a long time since I had stopped trying to compare myself to Raven. She was the faster learner, but her abilities were limited. Me, I supposed I might do more… if I cared to. Except, I didn’t really care. It was more fun just seeing Erik’s frustrated face when I fought him. Right now, Raven was out in the town with Cook. As the favourite she was allowed special privileges. I clearly wasn’t trusted. I suspected it also had something to do with the young girl in the bakery, who had always blushed bright red whenever I was around. Raven had taken extreme delight in teasing me, and eventually told Erik of my admirer. And that was that. No more trips to the bakery… no more trips full stop. He really could be a mean bastard when he wanted to be… which was most of the time.
I stared hatefully at him, and mustered up all the control I could. I flicked the water up out of the cup and into his face, feeling great satisfaction. There was silence for a moment, and then he hit me again with the cane. I heard it whistle through the air before it struck, it hurt more this time, because of the water splashed onto my hand. I flinched out of instinct and my fingers cramped up with the pain and the cold.
Like I’d said, I’d grown used to the cane and his temper. I hadn’t grown used to his smile. The slight hint of a curve to his lips caused me to catch my breath. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like to stop fighting him and make him proud of me. See him smile at me for real. But then I remembered I was in a war of my own making with him, and he was going to abandon me when he’d had enough. And that day was approaching us fast.
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t do that on purpose,” he said in a low warning voice.
“Shame,” I muttered under my breath. As soon as I’d said it, I’d wished I hadn’t. Maybe he hadn’t heard me. I had the feeling I had pushed it far enough with the water, and his humour would only take so much. Evidently however, my insolence hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Get up,” he growled, grabbing me by the scruff of my shirt and dragging me to the wall, where he’d tacked a chart he’d made a few days previously.
I hated that chart. In fourteen more days I would be either apprenticed or sent to the south. I knew what was coming as his hand tightened around the back of my neck. He sent a shiver through me as he leant in close, I could feel his breath on the back of my neck, and I closed my eyes for the briefest of moments.
“You see that?” he demanded, pointing at the chart. I thought of many smart remarks to reply with, but instead I kept them to myself. I nodded feebly. “The sun rises fourteen more times in your sixteenth year. Seventeen is too old to be un-apprenticed. You need to stop behaving like a child.”
“I moved the water, didn’t I?” I cheeked him. I wished I could hold my tongue, but I had not been born to a life of servitude. Bowing my head came difficult.
He pushed me away as if I’d scolded him. I could see his face contorted with emotion, but I couldn’t read him. For the first time he moved away from me as if I frightened him. Why did he fill me with such conflict? I hated him for the way he treated me, and yet I wanted desperately to make him happy. His heavy boots echoed their tread across the rough wooden floor as he walked away in the silence. At the door he turned to look at me once more and his face was hard and emotionless once more.
“I’m sending you to the Southern City,” he told me bluntly, not meeting my eye. I felt my heart pounding. It was the first time he had said the words we had all known were coming from the first day I’d arrived here. “It’s time you knew.”
I watched him leave me with a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was only in this moment that I realised I’d been holding onto a small and fragile hope that he might in fact have wanted me. But he didn’t. I had always known I would be the one sent away, and yet, I had not realised how much it was going to hurt.
Feeling tears prick at the back of my eyes, I escaped into the garden. They were extensive, but they were not limitless. The metal fencing that kept the wildness out, also kept me in. It was too high to climb, and I had never tired. I realised Erik had only taught me only the elements that would have no use in my escape from him. Air might have helped me fly, earth to tunnel away. He’d created a powerful captive, tied to him in my ignorance.
I sat down by the post and the chains. It seemed so long ago that I was being systematically burnt by his torches, and as cruel as it was, it had worked. I supposed he’d won every fight I had waged against him in the end, and my resistance suddenly seemed petty. The control over fire felt as natural to me as hearing a whisper of someone’s thoughts, and I created a small spark now out of a dried leaf, letting it float over my outstretched hand. I ought to thank Erik for showing me this gift, but I never would. Instead I wondered what the war-mage Emma would be like. Whether she would be a riddle like Erik, cruelness and kindness all mixed together in confusion. I wondered whether she would hit me too, when I failed her also?
As I sat, I could feel eyes upon me. It wasn’t unusual. I suspected Erik was watching me from one of the Keep’s windows up above. I tried to look for him, but the windows were shrouded in darkness. He was always watching, as if he expected me to try some kind of attack or escape. I liked to think kept him guessing, when we all knew I would never get far if I ran. I shivered, and returned inside. There was nothing to be gained from freezing on the ground, and my tears had long since dried.
Later, Raven found me sulking in my room. She’d brought me a small palette of sweetberries from the market, paid for out of the small amount of money Erik allowed her. She had visited our parents too, apparently they still wondered why she could visit and I could not. They disliked Erik for this fact, if nothing else. They had written to me and father had sent a new book, One Hundred poisons found in the Isles. I knew who this was aimed at, and his strange humour made me smile. Clearly he imaged I might care to poison Erik.
“Raven he told me today,” I said, interrupting her talk of mother’s new rose garden. I couldn’t sit here and pretend everything was alright. The words had been burning on my tongue. “I’m going south.”
Raven gaped at me astonished. I saw fear flash through her mind like a series of fast moving pictures, it made me feel dizzy and I turned away.
“But…” she began in earnest, and then stopped. I could see her grappling with something she wanted to say, and gave her the space to find the words without me lifting them from her mind. “You know, it should have been me Charles. If you had tried… he would have picked you to stay. I know it. You belong here with him.”
I shook my head. I had never wanted to compete with her. I had known Raven would be safe with Erik. Despite all of his casual cruelty towards me, he was kind to Raven, I’d never seen him strike her, or even raise his voice unless it was warranted by her behaviour. But maybe there was some truth in what she was saying? However small. Erik had kept me around for too long, to just let me go without some regret on both our parts. However unwanted the feelings might be. When you depended on someone like I did Erik, you grew accustomed to their presence.
“No, he’d chosen you long before he’d even come here. I think he only kept me here for your sake,” I said.
I knew this to be true. Looking back through Erik’s mind, I had seen his intentions clearly. The more time that passed, the more Erik let his guard down around me, either that or I grew stronger. He never again checked me for invading his mind. But it allowed me some answers at least. He had only ever meant to take Raven, and he named me a distraction, something that dazzled him and sent him off course. Like a bug studied from under an upturned glass, he had kept me, and my constant battling with him had simply been amusing, for all I tried to fool myself otherwise to think it annoyed him.
“You will be apart from me for so long,” Raven lamented wrapping me in her arms. She smelled of Lavender water, and I closed my eyes to try and remember this.
“In another year he will bring you back to me. Just you see,” I assured her. I’d seen Erik’s plan in his mind. He had to stay in the West for another year, training with her, and manning the Keep for his king. Then he would be recalled and a lesser mage put in his abandoned place.
“That is so very long,” she whispered. I agreed with her, but what could we do? We had no more control over our lives than a pet dog had. Where Erik called, we would go. And now, I would have a new mistress.
Chapter 6: Leaving the West
Erik sends Charles to the South, and Charles' world is turned upside down.
I think I forgot to mention this, but the county of Wessex is the ancient name for the South West of England. I stole it. We're heading towards our Charles/Emma arc of the fic now, but never fear this is a Cherik fic at heart. Erik is just being stupid right now.
Thank you muchly everyone for all the comments and Kudos, it means a lot! :D
“Up, now,” Erik yelled from over me, breaking into my dreams with his usual brutality. I blinked up at him bleared eyed. He hardly ever invaded my room, but here he was now, leaning over me like a terrible spectre. I flinched back from his gruffness, and he stepped back. A second later he dropped a large brown-paper wrapped package at my feet. I continued to stare at him like a frightened child, until he growled with impatience and stomped out of the room.
It always seemed to unhinge him if I stared for too long. I could hear his mind throwing a curse back at me as he walked down the stairs. Fucking blue eyes.
I didn’t know why he was so bad tempered today. It was the day he was sending me away after all, finally getting me out of his hair. He ought to be jumping with joy. I considered crawling back under the covers and forcing him to drag me from them, but my curiosity overruled me. I reached for the parcel, and pulled it up onto my lap. I could guess what it was, but still I was excited to receive anything at all. Ripping at the paper, I found that my guess had been correct, it was clothes, but what caught my attention was the cloak. Made of dark grey material, that felt soft and warm in my hands, trimmed with white fur. I couldn’t believe it, that I was going to wear white fur, the most expensive show a person could make. The clothes I had been given matched it perfectly, and I knew it had been chosen to make a statement. I just wasn’t so sure I was ready to be drawing this much attention to myself.
The white shirt was of such a quality that I had never aspired to, and the black trousers fitted me snugly as if the tailor had measured me himself. This was the uniform of a gentleman fighter, a war-mage of high royal regard; I looked as if I had come straight from a page in my father’s history book. I had dressed in awe, lacing my black boots up my calf and tucking the trouser leg inside them. It was only then that I noticed the note lying abandoned in the paper I had discarded in my haste.
I didn’t know who had been spying on me, certainly it couldn’t be Cook, and there was no one here for miles until you reached the town. It would serve Erik no good to tell Emma that he was less than impressed with my behaviour, since she might try and refuse to take me and want Raven instead. I decided to put it behind me, and did as she said, crumpled the note in my hand and set it aflame. The fire tickled over my palm for a moment before I let it die. Grabbing the pack with the few belongings I owned that were worth keeping, I made my way downstairs. Raven was sitting in the kitchen with Cook, her face was red with tears, and even Cook looked less than composed.
Raven launched herself at me, crying into my new and dangerously soft cloak. I stroked her blonde hair as she held me, wondering if I could really make it a whole year before I saw her again. I had little choice but to try, since Erik had arrived in our lives, we had drifted on his whims.
“I want to go with you,” she sobbed, refusing to let me go. I let her cry until she realised that her tears were changing nothing, and hiding her face meant she was missing seeing mine, for what in her mind I could see she regarded as the last time.
“We’ll be together again Raven, I know we will,” I assured her. I couldn’t imagine that the world could keep us apart for too long, no matter what it decided to throw at us.
She sniffed, wiped at her eyes then appraised me like only a younger sister could.
“You’re going to get yourself raped on the road looking like that,” her seriousness was undone by her blotchy face and croaky tear filled voice. I smirked at her. That was all the compliment I likely to receive.
“Oh pish,” Cook said straightening up my appearance after Raven’s attack. “No one in their might mind attacks a mage.” Her hands were gentle with me, as if she was trying to remember me by the feel of the fur. I heard her mind speak to me.
Now you listen to me Charles, your life here hasn’t been easy, and that that hasn’t been your fault. There are things you don’t understand… but soon you will, and you will look back on this with different eyes.
I stared at her, looking into her grey-green eyes and wondered what she could mean.
The South is different. Don’t be led astray Charles, you have a kind soul… remember that. Because you’ll be caught in a war.
I stared at her, not knowing what I was supposed to say. Was she warning me about Emma? Or life in general? Was it mean to make sense when I arrived, or was I never supposed to know? Before I could wonder any further, or before she could tell me more, Erik broke our sanctuary. I watched him hesitate for a moment when he saw me, eyes sweeping me from head to toe, his attention rapt, then he snagged on the white fur and his expression darkened.
“Time to go,” he announced.
I followed him with Raven wailing behind me, and Cook trying to hush her. I knew that if my sister didn’t curb her unhappiness Erik would punish her in some way. He was not one for big shows of emotion. Outside, the cold wind hit me like a sheet of ice, I tried deflecting it like I did with the fire and water, but it continued to beat at me, driving me backwards. Erik’s hand was steady on my back as he herded me towards the large grey horse that awaited me. One either side of it sat a King’s soldier, one a young man with short blond hair, the other a dark skinned man who dared a smile of bright white teeth at me.
I put my shaking foot in the stirrup of the saddle, and felt Erik launch me up onto the horse. His hands stroked down my back and then my leg as he let me go. His touch made me shiver and I quickly looked away, feeling my face heat up.
He didn’t speak to me again, and I felt as if there were a million things I wished I might ask him, but everything stuck in my throat. I let the horse fall into step behind the others, feeling with every step a sharp pain beneath my ribs. Grimacing, I tucked my arms in tight to my sides as I held the reins. The horse’s gait was not an easy ride, he was skittish, and I wondered if he sensed my despairing mood. He whinnied and tossed his head as I slowed him, looking over my shoulder at my year-long home.
Erik was sitting on the cold stone of the doorstep, his head bowed, arms wrapped around his chest as if he had collapsed. Raven was crouched beside him, her hand tentatively on his arm. I tried to reach back to her, but all I could feel was her grief and confusion. Then, my horse took me through the large metal gates and out into the vastness of the world.
It took until nightfall, when the camp had been made by my two… I did not know what to call them… Companions seemed odd when I hardly even knew their faces, let alone their names, and captors was even worse. Regardless, it was not until nightfall that I was spoken to. The man with the dark skin suggested I sit by the fire he had built, and share a meal with them.
“My name is Darwin,” he said as he handed me a small tin mug containing stale tasting beer. “That’s Alex,” he added pointing to the blond young man, busy brushing down his horse. “You can think of us as, he’s your sword, I’m your shield.”
I heard Alex scoff from behind me.
“I think the little wizard can look after himself, right?” he said, sitting down heavily next to me. He looked me over as if he believed his words, but still, I could tell I did not quite measure up to his standards as a war-mage.
“I am still training,” I said, answering what his mind had told me. He blushed slightly to have been caught out thinking something less that complimentary. “And whilst I am sure I could set my attacker aflame… I still appreciate the guard.”
He beamed at me. Apparently the idea of setting a would be assailant on fire was something that appealed to him. I didn’t care to know why. Darwin was laughing at me, but it was good-natured.
“He’s a funny one,” he muttered stirring whatever it was he was cooking in the small pan over the fire. “Oh, I can’t tell you how proud my parents were, about me coming to fetch you,” he said pouring a little of the unappetising looking broth into a bowl for me. “You know, you and your sister are famous in the South. But no one knew which mage was going to apprentice whom. It’s kept people guessing for a long time.”
“I can’t imagine my life being of interest to anyone,” I admitted. I hoped it didn’t sound like false modesty. But Darwin’s little speech had caught me off guard. I found the idea of thousands of people wondering about me, and following the path of my life, a little unnerving.
“Sure. The Xavier siblings from Westchester… you should have seen the commotion when the City found out there were two un-apprenticed mages just wandering about in the backwoods! Lehnsherr set off so fast to find you, you would have thought he was riding a rocket, not a horse…” Alex informed me, impressing upon me the scarcity of people like myself in the world. Rather than make me feel special, I slumped my shoulders and ate without complaint. “You’re lucky it was him… some of the defected mages treat their apprentices like animals… but, they live over the seas now.”
“Beat them… rape them… and I don’t just mean a slap, I mean, proper whips and chains beating…” Alex continued, just as joyfully as if he was explaining his last birthday celebration.
“Alright, Alex, thank you for sharing that. You don’t know anything about Xavier’s life in the Keep, so shut your mouth,” Darwin warned. I was grateful, the idea of being beaten and raped was turned me a little cold.
“Maybe not,” Alex replied, not ready to be hushed just yet. “But I know Lehnsherr. He might be an asshole, but he’s not a rapist, or a torturer…”
My mind involuntarily travelled back to my time chained to the post in the cold grounds. The more I thought about it, I realised I had never once been afraid of him… all he’d ever managed to do was make me really angry, and then prove me wrong and himself right. I guess I had been lucky, in a way, if I had had to lose my old life; this was not so bad a compromise. Considering.
Life on the road was hard. I learned very quickly that I disliked camping, but my guards were pleasant enough. I wished I could say the same for my horse, and it took almost two days of slow travelling before the animal calmed down, and I was pleased when it stopped looking at me as if I was some terrible monster come to sit on it’s back, and started to look for me to care for it. I named him Spook, much to the amusement of Darwin and Alex. Maybe I looked like a spook too, as we rode through the high stone gate pillars of the South City of Wessex.
I was greeted with a mixture of awe, superstition, and in some cases downright fear. The thoughts, visions and noise that bombarded me as we made our way towards the imposing looking white castle towering above everything, was overwhelming. I tried to smile at people as I passed by, but for some reason that only alarmed them more. So I tried scowling instead, and since that appeared to be what they expected, the confusion and fear surrounding me lessened.
“I’m really glad it was you that came here,” Alex said randomly from my right. I thought this was a little unfair, since he had not even met Raven. Still, it was nice to be liked. “Lehnsherr must have been sad to send you away.”
I thought back to Erik sitting on the step, huddled over and nothing like the Erik I recognised from my year of knowing him. Maybe he had been sad… or maybe he had hurt himself lifting me onto my horse. I was sceptical about Erik having any real emotions, apart from when I pushed at his temper.
Charles. She said, feeling her voice in my mind made me almost weak at the knees. I had never known a mind to entangle in mine like this, and as she held out her hands towards me, I felt like I should kneel down at her feet.
“Welcome,” she said, her eyes sweeping me over before coming back to mine. She smiled. I had passed the first test, arriving suitably imposingly through the curious throng of townspeople. “I have been waiting so long. Kiss me.”
I felt myself grow pale. Under all these eyes I was nervous.
You will have to get used to kissing me Charles… and so much more. Her smile turned into a smirk. He did explain to you what was expected… didn’t he?
He didn’t tell me much, I confessed. I felt foolish now. She was waiting, the whole world was waiting, everything hanging upon this one simple moment, and yet I hesitated. This woman was to teach me everything, which included me becoming her lover. It was a strange bargain I thought. She might have anyone, why would she want me?
Now Charles, tell me you can’t imagine us fucking.
My mind had come to complete shocked standstill. I could feel her metal touch on me, like soft hands sliding down my chest, resting on my hips, pulling me closer to her. I followed her instruction, her ghostly hand running along the inseam of my thigh. Shakily I leant forward and kissed her soft cheek. She seemed amused by my modesty, and took me by the hand, leading me through the threshold into something new.
“I don’t know why he let you go,” she said pushing me against the wall as soon as the heavy doors were closed. “But I will not.”
I simply nodded at her dumbfounded. In this strange place, where everything made me feel so small and insignificant, I felt for the first time in my life, truly and utterly out of control. Her lips met mine in a soft yet owning kiss, and I knew I had been waiting for something like this to happen to me for a long time. Only, I just ended up more confused than ever. She made me feel instantly loved, like she had indeed been waiting for me all her life. But as I felt myself give up every last scrap of a fight that was inside of me, my mind drifted back to Erik and the darkness of the west.
Chapter 7: A New Life in the South
Charles adapts to his new life with Emma, but can't quite let go of what he's left behind.
This fic is totally going to die if something happens to my photobucket account... ah well. Here the next chapter everyone! Yay :D
The Southern City of Wessex was for me like stepping into an adult’s playground. Unlike my secluded life at the Dark Keep in Westchester, here Emma encouraged me to spend as much time as possible around other people. She told me it was teaching me to become a better ambassador for her cause, and I supposed I was losing the shyness I’d never really had much of to begin with.
She let me stay out until all hours, and come home whenever I chose. It was the first time in my life that I had had such freedom, and I could feel myself running wild. I took advantage of it all.
People were afraid of me, the previous mages had not worried about damage limitation, and the stories surrounding the mystery of our lives was enough to keep people at a distance and staring at me in awe. At first it was unnerving, if I stepped into a pub, the place went silent. If I walked into a shop, I was ushered to the front and served immediately. Nothing I could say or do made any difference to the way people treated me, and I soon came to realise that while they feared me, they considered themselves immensely proud that I had condescended to visit their establishments in the first place.
Apparently, I was good for business. Everyone wanted to shop where the higher-classes did, and as a part of Emma Frost’s household, I was considered as high-class as it came.
By the end of the first few months I grew used to people staring at me. I found I even enjoyed it. Emma insisted on dressing me up like a doll, always inspecting my appearance, accepting nothing but immaculate clothes and perfectly combed hair. At first I didn’t see why this was so important, but now, with everyone’s eyes upon me I understood. I was the centre of attention wherever I went, the topic of every conversation, and the route of most rumours. I loved hearing my name in people’s thoughts as I strode through the town, people stepping back for me as if I was a magnet that repelled them.
I heard the Xavier siblings are very handsome. If that’s the boy, just image what the girl looks like.
I heard Erik Lehnsherr couldn’t choose between them. I wonder why he kept the sister?
That Charles Xavier, he looks like butter wouldn’t melt. But I don’t trust any of them. Sneaky magic using bastards.
I breathed in deeply. Thoughts that didn’t belong to me flooded my mind, and I found myself lost as I stared through a shop window. The man who had been rearranging some of the display caught sight of me, balked, and disappeared. I realised I was staring into a confectionary shop. I focused of the sugar mice, all lined up ready to be bought, and remembered how it had once been such a treat to find my father had left one waiting for me in my room. Now, I could afford to buy as many as I liked. I could live on them if I cared to.
“Oo, chocolate fudge,” Alex said from behind me, before pushing me aside and peering into the window with longing.
The rest of the town might treat me with awed and frightened respect, but I certainly received none of that from my two guards. I’d thought they’d been simply there to bring me to my destination, but now they tailed me everywhere. I supposed that was the compromise, I could go wherever I want, but Emma was always watching. She knew everything.
Between sword fighting, my scholarly lessons, Emma overseeing my magical progression and running amok all over the city, I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. But still, the South held tight to it’s charms, and I could feel it changing me everyday. I was learning so much. Most especially about myself, and my ever expanding sexuality. In that, Emma was an enthusiastic and diligent teacher. She stood in my room now, wearing a sheer dress, the fabric showing me everything of her, should I care to look.
At first her brazenness and confidence about her body had shocked me. It had shocked me even more to learn that she expected the same confidence within me. Her hands would touch me freely, stroking over my skin with ease. I’d relaxed into her world easily, and no longer blushed when she came near me. To me it felt like a game, one we would play when we were alone, bringing us closer with every touch.
I was working on a map of the country when she interrupted me, trying to commit to memory the layout of the land. It seemed to me, that it would be a useful thing to know.
“Oh Charles, my little goose,” she said affectionately coming to stand behind me. I could smell her perfume as she leant down to whisper in my ear; her closeness sent a shiver down my spine. “Always scribbling. Let me see.”
“You’re been here five months now Charles. You like it here, with me, don’t you?” she asked before kissing my neck, her lips feather light. I felt myself melt at her touch. It was impossible to resist her, and I didn’t want to. But still, I could feel that my heart was unlikely to be coaxed into truly loving her, try as I might.
“Yes, I do. You’ve been very kind to me,” I said, leaning back towards her. She laughed against my skin.
“You’ve impressed me Charles. Maybe Erik was right to keep you until you were ready, he’s taught you well, but I think it’s time.”
“Time?” I asked, turning to face her. This sounded ominous.
“Time to be apprenticed. Do you object?”
For the briefest of moments my mind returned to Erik, thinking of him in that cold tower. I wondered how it might have felt to be in this position with him, and whether I might have wanted to accept with more passion. As it was, it just seemed as if we were going through the motions of what was expected of us, even though Emma made it enjoyable.
I blushed deeply and looked away from her, shielding my mind from her awareness. I didn’t know why I kept torturing myself with the what ifs. It had never been a possibility that Erik would have chosen me, and even if he had… there was nothing to say he would have touched me like Emma had. Loved me like Emma tried to. I remembered my father’s book. A war-mage chose a mate for practical reasons, not like a regular mage who bonded to a soul with true and deep love. My sister was obviously the best choice in that regard, she could give Erik children, and I could not. I paused… perhaps he did love her? The idea gave me a sinking feeling in my heart.
Good God this was insane.
The thought of being close to Erik made me want to squirm on my seat. The thought of his hands on me caused a tingling sensation right through me, and I was suddenly aware of a hardness between my legs. I tried to pretend it had been caused by Emma’s touch, even though my heart screamed at me Liar Liar! I shook the madness away. Erik didn’t care for me; he’d sent me away. He hated me. Why on earth would he have wanted me?
I tried to hide my sudden arousal, but Emma never missed a thing. I could feel her affection for me like a light in my mind.
“When we are bonded, I will show you how to take care of that,” she whispered, her hand trailing downwards with promise. “I’m going to fuck you Charles, would you like that?”
I stared at her with my mouth hanging slightly ajar. My mind felt as if it had frozen, and images she projected towards me only compounded the situation I was in. I saw her, naked, sitting astride me, her composed face flushed, moving deliciously slowly… I gasped. We had never gone that far, only her hands had touched me, gentle and dangerous. I could hardly imagine what it might feel like to be buried inside her, with my name cried out.
“Y-yes,” I stuttered, feeling myself shiver. She was beautiful and sensual, and she wanted to possess me. I wanted her in return, but it was simple attraction. I knew this, even if I could not yet express it. I had come to realise that there was an emptiness inside of me. My heart was cold, and it had happened on the day I had left the West… and him.
Emma smiled and kissed me, holding my face steady between her hands. I sighed and breathed in her scent deeply. I wished the coldness in me would stop aching, but perhaps it never would.
The following day, I went with her to the temple. The ceremony was short and to the point, apparently since there were no witnesses there was no need to make a ritual out of it. Mostly it involved me being told what was expected of me by a really old and decrepit man of a hundred years, and then I had to sign a scroll to the same effect.
Emma signed something too, swearing to protect me and keep me safe. Then it was over, and I felt nothing at all.
The elder wished to speak to Emma alone and she sent me outside. Little good it did, I simply pushed my way into the old man’s mind and listened to his words. As he started speaking, I wished I hadn’t. I knew I was about to learn things now that I shouldn’t hear, but it was too late to run away. I’d taken the bait.
“At twenty one, you will have to let him go,” the man said, his voice creaky with his age.
“What do you mean?” Emma asked, her tone was clipped and angered. She didn’t like being told what she could and couldn’t do and I was waiting for the explosion. This man was very brave.
“He’s been claimed already,” he replied as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. I felt my heart beat a little faster, knowing that whatever was said next was going to change my life with Emma forever. “There is another mages’ touch upon his heart. His soul belongs to another, whether he wishes it or not. You’ll never claim him Ms Frost, Charles Xavier belongs elsewhere.”
“Another’s touch?” Emma repeated in total shock. I could see her surprised face through the man’s eyes. Then her face darkened and I panicked. “Erik Lehnsherr!” she screamed. “I’m going to kill him!”
I balked. What did the old man mean, touched by another? I didn’t understand. Erik had sent me away, if he’d wanted to keep me, he would have. There had been nothing stopping him, I had been completely at his command after all. He could have done whatever he wanted to. Emma looked murderous, her hands wrapped around her long locks as if she might pull her hair out. I could feel her pain and her rage from here, and I knew that something had been destroyed between us today.
“To be fair to the lad, he knows nothing about it,” the old man continued, trying to pacify this dangerous woman, while she seethed. “Charles has been imposed upon, violated if you will, but he has not allowed this advance to hold him.”
“What does that mean?” Emma demanded, she was pacing now in a murderous rage. I had never known her anything but cool and calm.
“It means madam, if I might be so bold… You can try all you like to make him love you, but you will never find a soulmate within him. Best you set him free… and find another if that is what you desire,” the man told her warily. “However, as a war-mage, he might chose to stay with you regardless… the other mage discarded him… didn’t he? That must have hurt him more than anything... to be claimed and then rejected for another.”
Emma paused for a moment, as if the idea of me being in pain hurt her also. Then her face returned to showing her complete and utter fury for Erik. I was beginning to understand, but I was refusing to believe it. I felt like collapsing in horror, curling up on the street and crying. But I would behave as she had taught me to, with dignity.
She thanked the old man curtly, and turned on her heel. I retreated back into my own mind, crawling into her carriage to await my fate. Emma climbed in, her face murderous, but she kept her silence. I didn’t know if she was aware of me listening in, or not. Her mind was uncharacteristically closed off to me and I felt her coldness like sitting next to a block of ice.
As soon as we arrived back in her royal apartments, she closed the door to the servants and slapped me hard. My head snapped to the side with the force of her blow and my cheek stung brutally. I hadn’t realised Alex was in the room until he protested loudly at her treatment of me. She hushed him violently.
“You little snake!” she screamed at me, digging her sharp fingernails into my arm as she shook me. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Did he send you here to spy on me?”
“I don’t understand what you mean!” I cried, trying to free myself from her. I wrenched my arms out of her grasp and hurried back a few steps. Alex looked as if he was torn between stepping in, and staying out of it. I sent him a warning, don’t defend me Alex, you’ve more to lose.
“Erik Lehnsherr is in love with you Charles! Didn’t you know?” she shouted.
“NO!” I screamed at her. I could feel myself starting to shake. This made no sense, why if this was true would Erik send me to Emma? Why hadn’t he kept me? She had to be wrong. The old man had to have made a mistake. I wasn’t bonded to Erik… I refused to belong to someone who didn’t want me. It hurt too much.
“Oh, a fine joke he has played on me,” Emma hissed. I felt my legs give way beneath me and I sank to the floor, watching her feet pacing before me, too ashamed to even lift my head. “Sending me a claimed apprentice. What good are you to me? You think mages are ten-a-penny? That I can just find another one? Don’t you know how long I have waited for you?”
I could feel tears in my eyes now. I hated Erik. Why had he done this to me? I’d fought him every step of the way, but he had still won. I felt as if I had been dishonoured in some way. He’d taken away my choice, tying me to him, and casting my aside to flounder in agony. Why would he do this? Did he hate me so much? Had I displeased him so much that he’d taken to this cruel revenge?
“I hate him!” I spat, with such venom that it made Emma start. “I hate him! I wish he was dead. I wish I was dead!”
She dropped down in front of me, and took my face in her hands.
“Let me in Charles… I must see this for myself, or by God I will kill you where you sit,” she said looking deep inside of me, pushing at my mind until I let go of my defences and allowed her where she willed.
She tugged and pulled at my memories, making me feel that strange confusion of emotions I had felt around Erik. She saw him look up at me with that unreadable expression on his face when he watched me. Saw him fight with his anger while I defied him time after time. Watched him touch me with gentleness, and then when I cheeked him, hit me hard with the cane. Then as Emma pulled away, I remembered that sharp pain behind my ribs, which had hurt me as I rode away from him, and saw Erik collapsed over with the same.
“You never knew,” Emma whispered, kissing my forehead while I shook with all the emotions she had hauled from me. “Poor little boy. What has he done to you?”
“Please don’t send me away Emma. I want to stay with you,” I begged. The idea of being rejected again was terrifying.
“Send you away?” she repeated with a smirk. “Oh no Charles… you are my greatest weapon. Lehnsherr needs teaching a lesson. You might not know it yet Charles, but you’re a fighter and world is going to know your name. Become more powerful than he is Charles… make that your revenge.”
I blinked up at her, the tears blurring my vision. Revenge?
“He’s ruined everything for us Charles. You will never love another now; he has a soul-claim over your heart. All you can do is refuse him, but you cannot let another in. Does that sound fair? You’ll suffer here, while he fucks your sister and laughs at you,” Emma was harsh, her words cutting me deeply. I hated to hear them, but she made the world make sense. All the emptiness in me, that had never been there before, was the loss of Erik. He had ripped my heart out of me, and now crushed it in the dirt.
“Show me how,” I replied. I saw Alex’s ashen face pale even more as he watched us nervously, and I wondered whether I would ever again be free. My life was owned by Emma, my heart by Erik. I had nothing to sell, but my loyalty and my ever increasing magical gifts… and that was no a small thing.
I lay in my bed alone that night, thinking things over. I didn’t know what I had done to deserve this, and all I had for comfort was Raven’s last letter. I had re-read it now with fresh eyes.
Was Erik really missing me? Maybe it had all been a big misunderstanding. Either way, as far as Emma was concerned the challenge had been thrown into the mix. She was going to train me until I was best, until everyone wanted me, until I was more famous than any mage had ever been. Just so she could turn around to the world, and watch them lust over what belonged to her. I was ready, after all, what did I have to lose?
Chapter 8: King Shaw, the terror of Wessex
Charles is offered something he certainly never wanted, and forms a new opinion of his King. He also takes a new look at Emma Frost, and comes to realise the dangers around him are no longer so hidden.
Erm... I'm just going to leave this chapter here, and run away before it blows up. Oh Charles, your life just gets worse... sorry!
Thank you very much everyone for the comments on the last few chapters. I'm been cutting and editing the next few updates so that I can answer all your questions. No point me knowing the characters motives and then not telling you! Craziness. :D
A YEAR LATER
The door to the royal presence chamber opened for us as we approached. We were familiar faces here, treated with respect, and those around us kept their distance. As we parted the crowd like a wave, people stepping back with their heads bowed, fearing to catch our gazes, I looked up at my King. I had never been afraid of looking at him, even though once again, those around me always appeared nervous. I supposed they had good reason to be.
I had learnt quickly that life in the South was not all the sunshine and happiness it appeared to be. The King’s justice was harsh, and Emma had forced me to attend many public executions now. Her reasoning behind the unsavoury lesson was sound. I was being trained to be a killer, and I would be no good on a battlefield if I couldn’t even watch a beheading. I might have to wield the sword myself one day… hopefully never. I conceded that it was making me stronger, the sight of heads on pikes no longer made me vomit, but I couldn’t stand the fear and the feeling of finality that surrounded the events. No wonder the Southern subjects bent their knee as fast as they could.
King Sebastian Shaw was seated on his throne, as always, looking suitably regal and bored with his surrounding company. He was an attractive man, slim with a smile that could be called charming. I guessed his age to be around forty, maybe more, but my sums must be wrong. He had been reigning for too long to be forty, and I suspected some magic was involved, but wasn’t fool enough to ask. At this moment however, I saw his eyes light up when he saw me and Emma approaching him. He had a soft spot for Emma, which wasn’t surprising since she inspired lust and longing wherever she went. It had taken her a full minute to seduce me the day I arrived her, and she certainly knew when to turn on the charm.
His appreciation of her, at first had extended enough to allow me into his inner circle. But it was only after a few months, of me being constantly at Emma’s side, that he decided to speak to me. I couldn’t remember what we had spoken about now, but I remembered making him laugh. After that, he asked for me by name, and his liking for me grew. He had me stand by his side a lot, he’d ask my opinion on things I really had no right to speak about, and would either laugh or shout at me. He’d also come to watch me train a few times before with Emma, commending me on my control of the fire and the air.
It was only a few months ago, when Emma had taken me aside to warn me, that I realised his attentions to me might be more than platonic. Indeed he did allow me a lot of liberties, and he’d told me often that he liked having me at council meetings, because he enjoyed looking at me. I’d thought it was a joke… now I wasn’t so sure. Every time he touched me, I analysed it for hours after, I measured his every word, every look. I tried to seek advice from Emma, but on this subject she was silent.
I liked to think I had earned my place at his side on merit alone now. It felt demeaning to be kept around just for being pretty. Indeed, King Shaw seemed to like to listen to my suggestions on home policy, such as new agricultural ideas, and taxes, which I tended to have more a mind for than military subjects. I struggled to be interested in his talk on war tactics, which again, he found amusing… when he wasn’t berating me, and calling me a useless-in-war-mage.
As we walked towards him now, I lit the torches hanging in the wall brackets aflame, one by one. My powers flared warming as I felt the fire burn, each bursting into life as we passed them. I liked the dramatic effect it gave our arrival, and because it amused me to see the people step back from us with apprehension. It was what the public expected after all; why not given them what they wanted? It helped also that Emma continued to insist we dressed like the ice queen and king, all in white, her fingers adorned with diamonds. Once, she had even powered my hair white, and we’d looked like a couple of spectres. I was becoming a real glutton for theatrics.
Show off Emma whispered into my mind with amusement. I’ll punish you for this later.
Yes mistress I replied, absolutely looking forward to that. She smiled at my knowing grin, and took hold of my hand. I am at your mercy… again. I told her, feeling her thumb stroke the back of my palm.
I watched Shaw shuffle slightly on his throne, and I swept him a low bow. At least in this, I was perfectly matched with Emma. She was incredibly vain, and as look as people were staring in awe, she was happy. Just the fact that people knew who I was, was still astounding enough for me. When I looked up, and met my King’s eyes, I gave him my sweetest smile. I felt secretly proud of myself that it took him a while to look away from me. Emma had been trying to teach me the act of seduction, calling it my greatest weapon, but she didn’t look impressed today. Apparently testing out my skills on the King wasn’t advised. But regardless, even with Emma standing beside me, she couldn’t draw Shaw’s attention away.
“Emma,” he said nodding at her at last. She curtsied again, dropping downwards like a dancer, perfectly timed and poised. “Charles. I hope you have good news for me.”
We had been working undercover, and again it had provided me with yet another revelation. I had learnt that when I dressed in rags, no one recognised me. My respect for Emma’s showmanship had grown immensely. I understood now, that when you dazzled someone with fear and a porcelain image, no one noticed your real face. So we had disappeared into the crowds, listening to the common gossip, living what might be called a ‘normal’ life. Renting rooms in inns all over the city and the surrounding towns and counties. Unfortunately we hadn’t ventured back into Westchester. I suppose Emma thought Erik might not appreciate it. Then, when I had almost forgotten what we were supposed to be really doing, we had found our leads over into the dark lands.
“The fae are restless,” Emma began, taking her time with her words. She knew that this was a difficult subject around the King; his hatred of the fae was something of legend. “The general feeling is that they are planning some kind of attack upon us… The fae Queen has also taken a new King, or means to… I hear she is hopeful he will give her a child.”
I felt uneasy talking about this fae Queen also. She sounded fearsome, a person of such beauty that men had died to be near her. The fae had been banished into the dark lands, hundreds of thousands years ago… even the dusty history books in Shaw’s library struggled to remember a time when they had been free. The dark lands as they were commonly known as, were only accessible by magic used on the country’s lay-lines.
Unfortunately for us, the fae race was unhappy about their banishment, and had spent the last two hundred years systematically trying to break back through. What they had been doing up until that point, I didn’t know. I guessed that up until now, there had been enough mages around to throw them back. But the mages were dwindling, and myself, Raven and two others I had never met were the only mages to have been born to our generation… at least, we were the only ones who had be discovered, and I wondered how many others were out there hiding.
“The fae have been trying to attack us for hundreds of years,” King Shaw said not looking impressed with what Emma had to say. “What makes you think I should worry about them now?”
I could feel the tension in the room, but Emma seemed untouched by it. I knew she had an amazing way of keeping all her emotions from her face, and I wondered if I touched her mind now, if I would find any hint of apprehension?
“Because they have gathered at the lay-lines in the North, where the point is weakest. They are waiting to step through…” I said, cutting in, knowing that I was breaking protocol by speaking without being invited. I wondered if Shaw would cut me down, or let me continue. He stared at me murderously, clearly considering the same thing. In private, he might have just let me continue without being checked, but here in the great-hall, an apprenticed mage needed to be quiet.
“Speak up Charles,” he commanded roughly. “This must be important if you dare to interrupt me?”
The intensity of his stare told me that he knew more about this matter than he was pretending to. But he was one person I could not read, his crown, or helmet of strange metal, kept my inquiring powers out of his mind. He was a complete mystery to me, and all I had to guide me was his expressive face.
“The fae queen has been sending her people across the void into your lands… this is an aggressive move,” I explained, and then because he was still staring at me, I bowed my head. “Your majesty.”
“You have spoken with her?” he demanded. I suddenly felt like turning on my heel and running from the room. But I knew full well there was no escape for me. “You dare to speak to my enemy!”
I didn’t say a thing. I had not by choice sought out the fae, all Emma and I had wanted was to listen to the rumours on the streets. I supposed our disguises hadn’t been all that clever after all, since the fae had found us. Or at least, the queen had said one of her human followers to us with a message. A wild looking man, with a spiked mane of black hair. They wanted to send a threat to Shaw, and now, here I was like a fool, doing their dirty work for them. Telling Shaw what he didn’t want to hear. I hadn’t even told Emma all of what I knew, and she was looking at me now as if she hardly knew me.
King Shaw stood, walked to the door that lead to his private audience room, and summoned myself and Emma to follow him.
Hell, Charles, you’ve done it now. Why did you tell him that? The fae don’t make demands on this King. He will not thank you for this. Emma warned me, and even the words she sent to me shook with alarm.
I’m not scared of Shaw. I bluffed, but Emma simply raised an eyebrow at me.
I’m only warning you. She cautioned.
It seemed Emma was right, because as soon as we were through the door, Shaw grabbed my by the collar of my shirt and slammed me into the wall. It felt very reminiscent of my life under Erik’s tutelage; only difference was I wasn’t so sure of staying alive around Shaw.
“You little shit,” he hissed into my face. “What do you think you are trying to do? Start a war? I don’t need you fucking things up for me. The fae are the least of my worries, little flying bugs with pretty faces…” he paused, and something flickered on his face and behind his eyes, as if his thoughts had suddenly changed direction. “You have a pretty face Charles, it would be a shame to have to mark it.”
“I’m sorry Your Grace,” I spluttered. I didn’t know how far Shaw might go with his punishment today, but it seemed I was in luck. I could see Emma sitting rigid in a chair to the side of us, hating to see me threatened.
“You know… if you weren’t so annoying, I might have offered you a place by my side…” Shaw said, loosening his hold on me, but still touching my shoulders, his hands keeping me in place. He looked at me now with a completely different expression, and I felt like shying away from him.
He scared me more now than he had a moment ago, and I had no idea what was coming next. The way his breath was touching my face told me that this was fast becoming very dangerous. I dared a look into his eyes, and swore my heart stopped for a second. I knew what that look meant, I’d coaxed it from Emma more than once. A desire that blotted out everything else, possessive, but not loving.
“Would you like to sit next to a King?” he asked leaning into me. I knew now that my imaginings had not been mere fantasy, he wanted far more from me that my pert opinions and skills at lighting torches with my mind. “I bet Emma just loves touching you, look at me with those wide eyes Charles… and answer me.”
I swallowed hard. My heart was pounding. Yes I shared Emma’s bed, but I didn’t like Shaw being privy to it. But I had the suspicion that his relationship with Emma required her to tell him every little detail about me. His eyes raked over me as if he knew everything, knew where I liked to be touched, knew how I would cry out when it all became to much. I felt sickened, and all I wanted was Emma to tell me everything was alright. Only… it wasn’t alright. The King had just made me an offer to be his lover, I couldn’t think straight… I couldn’t breathe.
“No Your Grace, I don’t think I would make you very happy,” I replied bracing myself for his hand to strike me. But he must have been expecting my insolence, because when had I ever disappointed him on that score? I felt him pull me away from the wall, then throw me back again even harder.
He seemed to delight in the pain he caused me, and the fear that showed itself clear on my face. He was a cruel man, and for all his fondness for me, I would never forget that. I bit my lip and grimaced, he was too close to me, stifling. I wanted to push him away, lash out, fight like I had been trained to, but all I could do was stand here and let him hurt me.
I didn’t know what it was that made people want to lash out at me. I didn’t know how I manage to make others so enraged. I wished l could just glide about my life like Raven did, happy and eager. I wondered what she would have said to Shaw in my place. No doubt, she would have refused him prettily and everything would have been fine. No… I had to always say the wrong thing.
“You know I could just take you, don’t you?” he said, driving the point home. “Emma has warmed by bed more than once, and I always get what I want in the end.”
I continued to stare at him. I hoped for Emma’s sake that she had gone to him willingly, but knowing her, she probably enjoyed having some semblance of power over him. But she certainly wasn’t enjoying this. But what could I do? I couldn’t say yes.
He let me go and walked over to where Emma was giving me a warning look, to keep my smart mouth shut. He touched her shoulder affectionately as he stood behind her.
“How do you put up with him?” he asked, his anger having given way to amusement. The abrupt change in his temperament was startling.
“I suspect it’s why Erik Lehnsherr kicked him out of the West,” Emma replied. I scowled at her, it was cruel of her to mention Erik right now, but I knew my punishment was only just beginning. “But I like my lovers with a bit of fight in them,” she continued. Behind her smile, I could see her fear.
Her smile for Shaw however, was full of affection, and I blessed her for defusing the situation at least. Stop baiting him Charles; this is a man who likes a chase. You’ll make him want you more than ever, and I can only do so much to keep you out of his grasp.
“Speaking of Erik Lehnsherr, I’ve recalled him. Do you think you can bear to share your territory again Emma?” Shaw asked, bending and kissing the crown of her head. Emma smiled once more, but her eyes were hard. She wanted Erik around me as much as I wanted to be with Shaw.
“You know I was never very good at sharing,” she replied looking at me possessively.
“Yes, I remember,” Shaw said, his hard grip took hold of Emma's shoulder, and I could see his fingers digging into her. “You never forgave me for apprenticing Erik and not yourself, did you… so much pride hurt, wasn’t it Emma?”
I felt my head spinning. Shaw had trained Erik? Shaw was a mage too? I could feel my legs shaking under me, threatening to collapse. Only Shaw’s threatening stare kept me upright. No wonder Erik could be such a emotionless bastard, he’d been schooled by our psychopath of a King. I suddenly felt very sorry, for having never asked about his past, or for not even caring. I'd so blind back then, just thoughtlessly lashing out at Erik simply because he'd come to change my life. I'd made him love me, and I'd made him hate me too. And now I was doing it all over again with this dangerous King. I couldn't afford to be this short-sighted again, nothing was black and white, I needed to stop being a fool.
“Charles…” Shaw said abruptly, breaking into my thoughts without a care. “I asked you to spy on my enemy, not to meet with them… if you fail me like this again, I’ll kill you myself.”
I stared at him open mouthed until he left us, slamming the door closed behind him. I looked at Emma and she was furious. I started to apologise, but she took no notice. Her hand whipped through the air and she slapped my face hard, bringing tears to my eyes. I didn’t try and avoid her, I felt I deserved what I got now.
“Idiot. Why couldn’t you have just have said yes?” she hissed at me. Then she looked away and shook her head. I knew she was just as shocked as I was, and neither of us could make sense of what had happened.
I didn’t understand why she hadn’t stepped in to help me, or why she’d given me up so easy. What did everyone seem to know about King Shaw that I was clearly so blind to?
She didn’t let me leave her, the whole night. It was if we had brushed across death today, and shouldn’t even be alive. I felt as if her kiss had a touch of desperation within it, as if she sensed she might lose me. In truth, I felt shaken too. Refusing a king had given me a dangerous enemy, and I knew, I was walking on thin ice. But right now, Emma was doing all she could to distract us both.
I walked back to her bed, and she had me naked and panting within minutes. Her fingers twisting inside of me, covered in sweet oil, and wickedly curled against just the right spot. I could see stars bursting at the edge of my vision, but her other hand raked down my chest, nails scratching into my skin, bringing me back to myself. She could hold me on the edge like this for hours if she was being especially cruel. Not allowing me any release, keeping me crying out.
I started begging her now, but she just laughed.
“Don’t you come yet Charles, I haven’t finished with you,” she said lowing her lips to my aching cock. I tried to hold back as she licked me, long and slow along the underside of my shaft.
I could feel myself beginning to shake. She’d taken more from me in the past year than I had ever expected to give, and she treated every night like this as a lesson. I didn’t understand what she was training me for, but unlike Erik who had mercilessly hit me with whatever was lying around to keep me in line, Emma kept me crying out in other ways. I sucked breath in between my teeth, and prayed for the strength to last longer.
“You taste like sin,” she whispered against my flushed skin.
“Emma,” I breathed, loving the way she touched me, her fingers curling again, her mouth enveloping me.
My fingers clenched at the sheets beneath us, as her mouth suddenly let me free, her lips glistening as she licked them clean. The hand on my chest replaced her tongue, moving up and down, the slick of the sound of her touch made me dizzy, the curl of her fingers inside me left me breathless. I couldn’t hold back, and she knew it. Kissing me as I spilled myself into her hand, her mouth always so hungry for me, and never satisfied. I felt she was always trying to stake her claim over me, and I always submitted.
As if lay with my eyes closed, my chest struggling to keep up with the demands of my fluttering heart, I knew that no matter how often I gave in to her, or pleasured her in return, I could never make her happy. She knew I would never love her, and between us there was a wall of misery that neither one of us could break down.
When I thought of Erik coming to the City, my heart longed for him. I had tried my best to lock that traitorous feeling away, but it was so mixed with hate that it remained boiling in my heart. I felt Emma’s hand, pull me closer, and I wished things could be simpler.
“Come with me,” she said sliding to the edge of the bed and standing. I watched the motion of her rear as she walked, all soft and the skin perfect, her hair falling down her back, covering her delicate shoulder blades. I wished so hard that I could love her… but my heart just remained as it was. Empty.
I followed her into the bathing pool in the courtyard, the water steaming into the cool night air. Darwin was standing over on the far side of the yard, looking up at the stars. Apparently listening to Emma and me fuck each other was part of his guard-contract, but neither Alex or Darwin ever made any comment about it. Thankfully. I hesitated when I saw him, I was naked still, but he seemed not to notice, or care. Just nodded at me and then continued to stare at the sky. Clearly I was the only one here with any semblance of modesty.
For the first few minutes I was acutely aware of Darwin being only ten steps away from us, until Emma brought me to aching again and made me forget there was anything other than her in the world. The water was hot, but not as hot as the wetness inside her, her body gently moving with me, taking me deep. Her voice was soft as she spoke my name into my ear, her body capturing me, urging me to my finish as she rode through hers. I leant back in the water, and looked up at the sky too.
The stars were very bright tonight, and it felt like the beginning of something new. As Emma held me, it felt as if the world had changed. She couldn’t protect me, the spell had been broken. I was standing alone, but I was far from powerless. I was ready to fight, and I wouldn't let my guard down again.
Chapter 9: Who Are We Anymore?
Erik and Raven arrives in the South, and Charles' world is turned on it's head.
I think I broke my right index finger by typing like a demon lately. Seriously the pain! But I'm soldiering on.
PS: Never fear anyone who is worried about the Shaw/Charles element of this fic, it isn't going to happen. This King is evil.
On to the chapter!! Yaaaay!!
When they come in, you will not greet them. Emma hissed into my mind, but it wasn’t needed. The hatred that had been bubbling up in my chest for over two years was finally flying at its target like an arrow. Not even Raven. She is your enemy too. Remember… I am your only friend now.
It was true; she was now my only friend, nothing could tear us apart now… except for ourselves.
As the door opened, I looked upon the faces of strangers. My sister looked just as pale and beautiful as I remembered, dressed in her travelling clothes covered in dust from the road. She smiled at me, but her happiness hesitated when I didn’t return her greeting. I watched as Erik touched her back gently to usher her forward, and the poison within me began to run through my veins. Life here had made me closed and cold.
It annoyed me greatly that Erik refused to look at me, as if I was completely beneath his notice. There was no way he couldn’t have noticed me, I was stood to the direct left of the King, Emma to his right. Emma had made me wear the white fur cape too, the one that made everyone stare, if they hadn’t been staring before. No, he was ignoring me, and it just boiled my anger even more. I glared at him, willing him to look up and see that a year apart from him had not quelled my feels of betrayal. His face was blank; his steps sure and steady like I remembered. He didn’t need theatrics to make an imposing entrance, his dark aura seemed to permeate the air and everything around him.
But it would not touch me. I stood defiant against his dark attack, bright and wonderful. As he neared, I felt like a candle flame, burning in his night. The old fight returned to me, and I made the first move. No matter how many times I was warned by Emma, I found I just couldn’t help myself when it came to provoking those around me.
I had hoped you would of remembered me Erik…
He looked up at me then, and I felt as if I had been hit in the chest by a war-hammer. I couldn’t breathe; staring into his eyes was like falling through the air, loosing control, and knowing that this was only going to give me pain. I looked away. There was a flash of anguish across Erik’s face too, but it was gone before I could understand it. I knew Emma could feel the multitude of emotions pouring from me, and she touched me with a calming thought.
Never let your enemy know your thoughts Charles. You blank face will hurt him more.
I smiled at her warmly as Erik and Raven bowed before King Shaw, but everything just felt like a farce. Rather than acknowledge them, Shaw touched my arm to call my attention, and I leant towards him so that he could speak to me privately. I saw Erik frown at my exulted position at Shaw’s side, and I could feel the confusion in his mind. Really, I shouldn’t be here at all, but Shaw was increasingly needy of my presence, even though I had refused him.
“Your sister looks a delicate little thing… too sweet for Lehnsherr’s taste,” he looked me over, and I knew what he was thinking. It was what everyone had been wondering for a long time, what had I done to make Erik send me away? It was clear everyone thought I was perfect for Erik, maybe it was my smart mouth and defiant nature. I declined to comment. I really must have been a hateful little bastard in the West. “I can’t image there is much spirit in her.”
“Plenty of spirit Your Grace. But I admit… more suited to your employ,” I said without emotion. It felt odd to be talking about my sister in such a way, especially odd to be talking of her at all, after so long apart.
Shaw smirked. His devious eyes were looking at me like he knew there was far more to this story than he had been told, and I could see him filling in the gaps on his own. I dreaded to think what he’d come up with.
“Don’t sell yourself short Charles. I’ve grown used to your cheek. Luckily for you, as much as you try my patience with your lack of respect… you have a certain charm with it.”
The unexpected compliment caught me off guard, and Emma’s questioning expression reminded me that I had an audience. But I wasn’t about to be fooled by this King, he was the fisherman, his good humour the bait, and I was the leaping fish, dancing about with my gleaming scales.
“Lehnsherr,” Shaw suddenly barked, his good humour continuing, but we all knew it was simply for show. “Don’t you ever eat in the Black Keep? The girl looks as if she’ll float away.”
“Things have been difficult since my assistant died,” Erik answered in his usual smooth voice. I felt him vibrate through me, but then his words found some meaning within me.
I blanched and looked at Raven for confirmation.
Cook Died? I asked her with a touch of indignation. You didn’t tell me!
You never asked. She replied haughtily, and I knew that I had asked for that.
She sounded wary of me now, and I could see in her mind how much she thought I had changed. I felt guilty for making her nervous of me, but I couldn’t help it. For all I loved her, I couldn’t forget that she stood in the place that should have been mine. She had the man who had marked me and tainted me, leaving me without love. She was my competition, she always had been, and now, we were fighting each other for everything.
“Well, that’s what you get for taking a old woman into the West,” Shaw joked meanly.
More laughs now. I scowled at Shaw, but almost fainted when he turned to face me, and caught my expression.
“Charles disapproves of my humour,” he said, his voice was light, but I saw the warning in his eyes. He was not impressed that I was already causing him trouble.
“Your Grace, Erik’s cook was very kind to me. I don’t think it’s right to laugh at her memory. Forgive me, I couldn’t hide my feelings just now.”
“I forgot you lived there…” Shaw said, mostly to me in a low voice. Louder he said, “I apologise Erik, you are to be pitied I am sure. As you see, my little Xavier says what he likes to his King. Nothing I do teaches him to hold his tongue.”
Erik had a sly smile on his face. He didn’t know all that Shaw meant behind that little joke.
“Had the same problem Your Grace,” he replied jovially. Shaw laughed, and so did the rest of the hall. It was joke everyone could understand, and I felt my cheeks flush.
I saw myself though many eyes in the hall. Sometimes my own image alarmed me. I didn’t recognise myself anymore. When I looked in the mirror I saw a stranger, so I avoided them now. But I saw me now, a young face, with big childlike eyes, but behind them a wicked knowledge of more than I should have seen. The white of my clothes suited me, I looked cold and untouchable, like a statue. People were laughing, but they still looked at me with longing. All wanting to be the one that broke my wilfulness, they would never touch me. I knew I played a part in many a person’s fantasy. But I was simply a toy being passed around by the three most powerful people in the room, and the country.
“Yes, well… he behaves for Emma at least,” Shaw said calling order at last. Then his gaze switched to Raven. “Welcome to the South City Raven. I hope you are easier to command than your brother my dear.”
Raven curtsied to him, with her cheeks flushed perfectly. I knew Shaw liked her immediately, but she didn’t hold his interest for long.
“Charles, we shall have dinner. Come, Emma, Erik, Raven,” Shaw said standing and walking to his private rooms. I followed him, passing Erik on my way.
He stepped back for me, but it felt more like a snub than respect. I refused to acknowledge it. Out in the corridor, Raven caught up with me, pulling me into her arms. I stood without moving until she let me go.
“I missed you so much Charles. You look well. It’s so beautiful here, you must love living here, I would… I will. I suppose I’m staying here now,” she paused and searched my face, confusion flickering behind her eyes. “Won’t you speak to me Charles?”
“And say what Raven? I’m glad you have been so happy with Erik. Now, our King commands me to join him. Excuse me,” I said, finding that the coldness in me was not hard to pretend. I really did feel numb. I felt like nothing could ever touch me again, as if all the emotions I had, had been used in the throne room. Now, there was nothing left in me.
Raven stepped away from me, hurt.
“Who are you?” she demanded. I walked away from her. I didn’t know the answer anymore.
Dinner proceeded to be absolutely hideous, luckily Emma and Erik managed to carry the conversation to our King’s satisfaction, and I was left out of the firing line. I didn’t want to have to speak to Shaw, I just wanted to be left alone. I’d been doing a terrible job of avoiding him recently, but I was hopeful. I didn’t want anything uncomfortable being mentioned in front of Erik and Raven. Refusing his advances in front of Emma had been one thing. I didn’t think his ego would survive being refused in front of a larger group. Thankfully, Shaw seemed to be less interested in me today.
Then, he asked to speak to Emma alone, and my heart sank.
Emma was shouting, and I was alarmed to find that it was our King she was raising her voice to. God only knew that man needed yelling at from time to time, but I knew his tolerance for my inability to be quiet didn’t extend to Emma… or anyone else.
When Emma appeared she looked angrier than I had ever seen her. Even I had to step back from her, worried who was going to receive the harsh edge of her tongue. Luckily she flicked her eyes to Erik, pulling me into her embrace as she yelled at him.
“You!” she accused Erik, holding me tightly. It seemed she was so enraged she couldn’t even get her words out. “Did you know about this?”
I could look around at Erik, since I was pressed against Emma so tightly that I could hardly even breathe let alone move. It felt as if she was clinging onto me for dear life, and I hated to think of her being frightened.
“Emma, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I heard Erik reply in his usual calm voice. She let me go, and I managed to turn to see his face. He was looking at me with a concerned expression.
“Shaw wants Charles and Raven to demonstrate their abilities,” Emma explained, although this did little to enlighten me. Erik on the other hand looked downright terrified. She pushed me back a step so that she could stare at my face. “I knew he wouldn’t let that go. This is your punishment Charles… Oh God,” Emma lamented. She stepped away from me, her hands reaching up to tangle in her hair.
“Punishment for what?” Erik asked. Where Emma had forced me to move backwards, I was now dangerously close to Erik. As he moved I felt his arm brush along my side. The sensation almost caused me to stop breathing, and for a moment I felt dizzy.
Emma looked as if she would rather not explain anything further, and I realised this was up to me.
“The King made me an offer,” I said not able to meet his eye. “I turned him down.”
“What kind of offer?” I heard Raven ask with her usual innocence. I wasn’t surprised she hadn’t understood me, and was grateful that she still seemed like a child. But Erik had understood all too well.
“What the hell have you been doing with him?” Erik demanded of Emma. I wasn’t surprised that he was so quick to catch on; he must have been shocked to see all the attention I received from his King. He must have known something wasn’t right. “You’ve got him dressed up like a slice of cake. He’s a mage, not a practicing whore. He was safer in the West.”
“Oh! Safer with you?” Emma shouted, rounding on Erik like a starved animal released from a cage. “Don’t even try that one Erik, you’ve done more damage to Charles that I ever will!” Suddenly she turned her anger on me. “It’s those fucking blue eyes!” she screamed.
I was used to being shouted at, and slapped when I’d displeased Emma, so her anger almost felt comforting. In a strange way, I knew that if she was mad, then she cared about me. I so desperately wanted to make her happy again, that I almost forgot that Raven had been living a life sheltered from all of this.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” my sister said, I felt her hand touch mine as she sought to comfort me from Emma’s temper. I let her hold my hand, and her meek grip felt strange after years of being constantly dominated.
“You are going to have to fight Charles in the soldier’s yard,” Emma said bluntly. I saw Raven turn a shade paler, and felt a wave of nausea wash over me too. “You have one hour to prepare. Come Charles,” she added, grabbing hold of my hand and leading me away.
I didn’t even know I wanted to be sick, until she led me outside to where Alex was waiting for us, and pushed me over to the flowerbed. When I’d finished heaving I found there were tears streaming from my eyes, and my legs were shaking.
“Careful,” Alex said as he helped me to stand upright. “What happened?”
I looked around for Emma, but she had continued down the path. I assumed she was going to order her carriage and get us back to her apartments as quickly as possible. But it meant I was left to fend for myself for a few minutes. I was so very grateful for Alex’s kindness, as he helped me walk after her.
“The King wants me to fight my sister for his entertainment,” I said, still unable to believe that this was even real. “In the soldier’s yard… in an hour.”
“Holy shit,” Alex exclaimed. “Actual magical fight? There hasn’t been a show like that for years… not since… well not since…”
“Not since what?” I asked feeling even more apprehensive. People were expecting a show? I wasn’t sure I was going to make it even back to Emma’s rooms right now. I was sure my heart would simply stop at the end of the path here.
“Well, apparently there was this mage called Logan Howlett, he fought this other mage… I don’t know who, my father wouldn’t tell me… but they torn each other up so badly, that the King banned the practice,” Alex told me as we walked together. “I guess the King must really hate you, if he’s bringing it back.”
I shivered with fear. The King had reason to punish me, I just hadn’t realised he would.
Chapter 10: Xavier VS Xavier
King Shaw forces Charles and Raven to face each other in the 'training yard'. He expects there to be blood spilled.
The violence continues... I promise it lets up soon...ish.
Emma looked as if she wanted to be sick, and was keeping it in by her strong force of will. It would take a hell of a lot to make Emma lose her dignity. But she had turned a slight shade of green, and her normal calm demeanour was cracking. Her hands shook as she touched me, and I found that suddenly I was having to be the strong one. I had not come to measure the dept of her feelings for me until this very moment, and I knew that deep down my traitorous heart didn’t deserve this much love from her. She was brushing invisible dirt from my shoulders, smoothing her hands over my arms and repeating the action over and over.
“I’ll be fine Emma,” I said, looking up into her eyes. When I had first arrived, I’d hoped I was still growing. Indeed, I had gained a couple of inches in height since leaving home, but still in her heeled boots, she was just a bit taller. I wondered if it bothered her, but I was never going to the love of her life. Erik had put paid to that.
“Charles, you’re strong. This past year… your powers have grown beyond what even I expected from you,” Emma said, speaking as if I had gravely missed the point of something, and she was scared of enlightening me. “But you’ve been asked to fight your sister. This isn’t training, this is real… the last time this happened…”
“I know, I know,” I said cutting her off. “Alex told me, he said the mages almost killed each other.”
“Charles, you don’t understand how this works… If you don’t give the King the show he wants, he’ll keep upping the stakes until you do,” Emma said, she made me sit down, as she turned to mirror and worried over her own face. “It was ten years ago, when King Shaw sent Erik into the arena with the mage they called the Wolverine.”
I gaped at her. Erik had been the other mage from the legendary fight Alex had spoken of? I felt a chill run up my spine and I looked away, unable to focus on anything. Emma must have known that she’d shocked me. All I couldn’t think of was Alex’s words, that the mages had almost ripped each other apart. The Wolverine must be Logan, who had sliced Erik into bits.
“I thought you knew,” Emma said, looking concerned.
“Yes… but I didn’t know it was Erik,” I managed to choke out. My thoughts were in complete turmoil and I didn’t blame Emma for staying out of them.
“Erik was Shaw’s apprentice. The King is a cruel teacher Charles, and he does not like competition. Logan did something to displease Shaw, and rather than banish him, he pitted him against Erik. Suffice to say, neither would back down,” Emma paused, I knew she was assessing my face, wondering whether telling me the story was helping or not. From the shaking of my hands, I was glad that I was sitting down. I waited nervously for the end of the story. “Erik won. Logan was locked in the dungeons, and then suddenly, he disappeared. No one knows where he went…. But Charles, what I’m trying to say is, King Shaw is expecting you to fight for your life.”
“But it’s Raven…”
“You think Erik is telling her to roll over and admit defeat? Shaw isn’t going to accept anything other than your blood on the sand, and he will get what he wants Charles, one way or another,” Emma said. I watched her flick her perfectly groomed hair back over her shoulder. The confident Emma reappeared before me, and her face settled back into it’s normal unreadable mask.
Except that I could read her.
“You have a plan?” I asked. I was more than nervous, and was wishing I could go throw up again.
“Of course I have a plan,” she replied with a fierce smile. Naturally Emma had a plan, she’d already made me change my clothes into all dark grey, with my black boots. She was never one to miss an opportunity to dress me to her liking.
“I’m not going to like it, am I?” I predicted. But I trusted her. I knew I would do whatever she asked of me, since I had this crazy desire to stay alive. I knew she wasn’t wrong, if Shaw could send his own apprentice out into possible death just because someone had annoyed him, then he wouldn’t have any qualms about seeing me being beat to death. I had no doubt that he’d expect nothing less. It didn’t bode well.
“You’d be kinder to Raven to fight hard, and fast and knock her out. Be ruthless. They will have a healer there, she’ll be alright… but you need to win… if you want to spare her.”
“If Shaw wants to punish me, wont it make more sense to lose?” I asked confused. Surely he’d rather see Raven knock me out, rather than the other way around.
“Because there isn’t going to be just one round Charles, there will be as many as it takes until Shaw decides he’s seen enough.”
I felt myself turn very pale. Emma wasn’t helping my nerves. Now I was expected to kick the life out my sister, and still be standing for round two. But Emma knew me all too well. I wasn’t going to let Raven face whether it was Shaw had instore for me by losing. No matter what, I had to win, and I knew, Raven would be thinking the same. And so… Shaw was going to get the fight he wanted.
The prospect of hurting Raven made me feel sick, but she could hold her own. Erik had liked to pit us against each other while we were in the West. Only… I hadn’t seen her fight for a whole year and more; I didn’t know what she could do anymore. In one way I was excited, I had surpassed all of the mages that had come to spar with me. None were war-mage powerful, but they had been a challenge a year ago. Now they barely lasted a few seconds against me. Where I lacked skills with my sword, I made up for it by controlling their minds. It was an unfair advantage, but I felt no shame in using it. Emma had stomped all my shame into smithereens.
I tried to tell myself as I stepped out into what I was now calling the arena, that whatever I did to Raven could be undone. Emma was right, there would be healers on standby, ready to patch us up. We just need to stay alive long enough to let them. I was under no illusions; this game could end very badly.
“I’m not going to let you die Charles,” Emma assured me as we’d left the safety of her rooms. “And I am pretty certain Erik will be feeling the same way.”
I’d given her shaky smile. I’d take any assurance right now, however small.
I was sure that the horrible people, who had come to watch me die, could smell the promise of blood in the air like gathering sharks. Their faces were hungry, and in a city where our enemies and traitors paid harsh prices for their actions, they were desperate for violence. My eyes sought out Erik, finding him like the pull of a magnet. He was still dressed in his black travelling cloak, but he managed to look dark and imposing, his expression thoughtful. I wondered what he made of the crowd. I knew it was a monster of my own creation, I’d caused unnecessary attention to myself in this City, and people were more than curious.
His eyes met mine, and I felt them like a sharp blow to my heart. I could hardly breathe as he stared at me, his eyes burning deep into my very soul. Could he see how afraid I was? I wished I could speak to him, I felt I needed to hear his voice. But instead of his mind being open to me, he looked away, his hand touching my sister’s shoulder as he walked past her. His dismissal of me and my need for him stung me, and my jealous heart roared into life. Shaking my fear away, I felt my blood fill with the need to fight. To unleash something that had been locked inside me for too long.
As I waited with staggered breaths and confused emotions, I looked up at the Royal stand. King Shaw looked the most fearsome I had ever seen him, and there was no affection for me in his eyes today. He looked as if he might very well like to jump down into the sand and slit my throat right then and there. Emma and Erik were now standing either side of him, not enjoying the honour, as they looked like two very miserable and grim statues. I could see without doubt that Emma had been right, Shaw was expecting blood to be spilt, and I hoped that I could knock Raven out fast. Only, I was pretty sure she wasn’t about to make this easy.
King Shaw didn’t speak. His herald announced what was about to happen, and the gathered crowd of people surrounding the wooden perimeter fence started to shout and howl like angry beasts. I gave a particularly scathing look to a bunch of children who were hollering rudely at me. I was no one’s entertainment, and they could all fuck off. What had happened to my scary war-mage reputation? Apparently it all went to hell when it was game on in the training yard. There was even a man inappropriately selling toffee apples. I marked him as an entrepreneurial asshole. I wasn’t amused, and it enraged me further.
I walked away from Raven and then turned to face her trying to look as menacing as I could. She looked a little more imposing herself now, with her sword drawn and stood in a fighting stance. I knew right then that she wasn’t about to surrender, she had something to prove as well. We both knew that we were standing in each other’s places, and we’d been struggling against our feelings for so long. This fight had been a long time in coming; I just hadn’t expected it to be so out in the open. Or as violent.
I had a small blade in my hand, but at this moment I had no intention of using it. I assumed everyone had come here to see magic, and with the King’s expression the way it was, I wasn’t about to disappoint. They wanted a ‘show?’ well I would give them one.
A horn blasted, making me jump, and suddenly Raven was hurtling at me, her sword flashing with the light of the sun. As I got ready to dodge her, I felt her call up the wind around us, and blast me backwards. I skidded, almost falling, but I had enough sense to jump sideways to avoid her blow. She wasn’t holding back, and from the way she swung the blade I knew she was prepared to take my head off with it. I needed to step up the pace, or I was going to die here. Raven wasn’t expecting me to hold back.
I borrowed her trick, and sent the air towards her in an almost sonic boom. I could see it moving like a wave around us, before it knocked her clean off the ground, sending her flying back ten feet. I watched her hit the ground hard, and heard the crowd cheering. I hated them all. They were stamping their feet and shouting at us, I heard the children laughing and the noise deafened me. I could feel it thudding along in my blood, rage, desire, hatred… so much I could make sense of.
I chanced a look back at the Royal box. Shaw looked rather amused, and I wondered if we had surprised him by being so vicious with each other. Emma was still looking sick, and Erik’s expression was furious. His eyes followed me and his stance was threatening.
But Raven wasn’t going to give up, I had surprised her, my power over the air element was stronger than hers. Her face was a picture of wildness, and before I could move, I realised I had sunk two foot into the ground. The earth had reached up to swallow me, and now Raven was running at me again, sword ready to strike. I sent her reeling back with a touch upon her mind, I told her brain that her spine was splitting in two, and she keeled over screaming in agony. It gave me the few seconds I needed break free from her hold, before I let her go. It felt like a dirty trick to use on her, but I couldn’t hold back my powers any more than she could.
I knew I could have won right there, but this was Raven. Hearing her screaming was too much to bear. I could see in her eyes that she hated me for holding back, and as I readied myself for whatever she had planned next I realised that for the whole of this fight I had been on the defensive. Emma wouldn’t appreciate that, and it prompted me into action. I swung at Raven with my blade, but as she deflected it easily, she changed her appearance. The sudden shock of seeing Erik standing in front of me, accompanied by screams of surprise from the crowd, broke my attacking stride. A second later Raven called the sand from around us to fly into my face, gritting my eyes leaving me blind.
I felt Erik’s strong hand hit the side of my face, knocking me to the ground. Again the crowd roared, only this time it fed into my rage like lightning, striking a spark. I could taste blood in my mouth, and as my eyes streamed from the grit and the blow, I managed to open them just in time to see Erik above me. His face was contorted in complete rage, and his eyes were dark. Raven was completely lost to me. His fist rose in the air, and then it smashed down hard between my eyes. The crack of my nose breaking made me feel instantly sick, coupled with red hot pain, which seemed to shoot straight through me. I tried to fend her off, but as Erik she was strong. Pinning me down, punching me over and over relentlessly, never tiring. It was if she was possessed by something, not seeing us anymore, just fighting against something of her own imaging.
With my mouth full of blood, and my eyes rubbed raw from the sand, I managed to gather my wits about me. Pushing my powers back into her mind, I forced her to change into me. With a smaller frame, not as sleek and wily as her own, and not as strong as Erik I stood a chance. It was my turn to punch her now, rolling her over and cracking my knuckles against her left eye. With both of us bleeding and scrapping in the sand, I knew it was impossible for anyone to tell us apart anymore.
I could feel myself losing control. Every I connected with her, Raven changed into someone else, her image flickering. Herself, Emma, me, Cook, mother… I lashed out at them all.
I wasn’t even sure what we were fighting for anymore. It seemed like the years of frustration just needed to come out. With every kick, slap and bite she gave me, I returned them without hesitating. But we were growing weak, blood in our eyes, and our anger directed inwards. She hated me for being better than she was, for never wanting any of this and yet, being handed it all. I hated her for having everything that I’d wanted in return. She had Erik, she was wanted, I’d been cast off into uncertainty. It was petty, and it was childish, but it felt as if in someway we needed this. Once this was over we’d wipe the slate clean, the past wouldn’t matter anymore, because we were forging a new future with our fists.
“Just fucking die,” Raven was hissing as me, as she tugged viciously at my hair. She was wearing my face again, covered with blood, eyes blackened and swollen. “You ungrateful bastard!”
“You have everything!” I returned with a backhand to her face. “Fuck off home. No one wants you here.”
“Erik didn’t want you!” she answered, spitting blood in my face. “You dress like a peacock here!”
“You look like something that died under a rock!” I retored. Only, I wasn’t sure she understood me. I was slurring, and I was flagging. Our fight had resorted to a childish brawl on the floor. But it wasn’t over.
I wasn’t afraid of pain, or bleeding, or breaking bones. I wanted her to hurt me, I needed it, pain felt like the only real emotion in this dangerous City. Hate and blood, it was all I could trust anymore. Kindness simply crushed my heart. But Raven was crying, with rage or sorrow I didn’t know, all I knew was she had morphed back into Erik and thrown me back with greater strength than I would ever possess. Suddenly she was raising the winds again, and I knew I had to end this. I sent my reach into her mind again, and forced her back into her real skin. She lay on the floor like a marionette doll with it’s strings suddenly cut, and stayed unmoving until the herald was forced to announce the fight as over.
I’d won but it was a victory that gave me no joy. A man who looked my age came running across the sand looking fearful. His eyes were hidden behind heavy framed glasses, and he was clutching at a black leather bag. I knew him to be a healer, since who else would come running into the yard? As I was still standing, I went to Raven first, healing her bloody face and unpuffing her eyes. Slathering on some white paste to her bruises. Her nose clicked back into place, and she screamed. Apparently this healer didn’t have the time to be making this pleasant for us. That alone told me this wasn’t over.
I waited with baited breath as Raven limped away to the sidelines, and Erik hurried down to meet her. She didn’t look back at me. Emma gave me a stare that was devoid of all emotion, but I was too tired to reach out and find what was behind it. Shaw was still looking murderous. When I wasn’t paying attention, the boy wrenched my nose back harshly. I dropped to my knees with the pain, and tried to push him away.
“I’m sorry,” he said, battling my hands. “But the King said I have five minutes.”
Five minutes until what? I wanted to ask, but I knew if I didn’t want to bleed to death before my fate appeared, I needed to let him work. He mercifully attended to my eyes, and the painful bruise in my ribs. Able to see and move again was such a vast improvement that my other pains seemed to fade away on their own accord.
Raven had managed to escape the arena, but as I was the winner, I wasn’t so lucky.
Charles just take a beating and lie down. Emma sent towards me as I looked for her. I could hardly believe this was her order. She had never told me to give up before, and I dreaded to think what was in store.
No, I told her. I wont lie down until I have to.
You’re not yourself Charles, this is crazy, she said. This worried me, but I shook it off. I was fine. I’d won hadn’t I? I was still standing. Like she’d wanted. I knew know how much I could endure, and I anticipated more. I wasn’t done, and King Shaw knew that. To simply accept defeat wouldn’t be good enough. Shaw would just punish me for that too. Better to stay on my feet.
“I couldn’t beat him, I tried Erik,” I heard Raven say. Her words echoed in her mind, and I shamelessly spied upon her.
“Raven… your brother has saved you from the rest” Erik replied. God, Charles just please don’t die.
“Janos!” Shaw shouted.
The crowd were still hollering, they sounded like savage animals hunting prey. I heard drums over the noise, boom boom boom, had they been there before? The ominous sound stripped me of all confidence, and I desperately sought the direction from where my doom would appear.
I had seen this man before. He was one of Shaw’s lackys, always slinking around the castle. I’d never heard him speak, although I’d tried to talk to him numerous times. He’d simply looked at me with distain and walk away. Now, he was walking towards me, all long limbs and dark hair. There was wicked look on his face. He reached a hand out, and I was shot backwards by a fearsome gust of a storm. Nothing like what I had conjured against Raven. It hit me in the ribs, almost caving them in with the force of a warhammer, and I landed painfully.
As I opened my eyes I saw that Emma was down at the wooden railings, looking as if she would do anything to help me. I knew she was pleading with me to just stay down, but I wouldn’t let her in. Erik on the other hand had his eyes on Shaw, his face was dark and unreadable, and out of everything, it was his eyes that made me afraid.
I stopped the slice of Janos’ sword with the side of my bare arm. The shock of finding him suddenly upon me had left me not other weapon than my own limb. I screamed as the steel smashed it’s way through my flesh, scraping against my bone. The blood that poured on the floor seemed so much, more than I could afford to lose and I forced myself to keep alert. I struggled to push myself away, and as he brought his sword down again. I managed to roll to the side, not thinking, just desperately trying to get away. The tip lodged itself in the ground, and I pulled the earth up to hold it tight. My victory was short lived. Without his weapon, Janos simply flung me across the yard with the wind again.
For God sake Charles, give up! Erik’s mind was screaming to be heard, but he had the same message for me as Emma. It was a shock to hear him so loud over everyone else, but I didn’t want to listen.
I struggled back up on my feet.
“This is enough,” I heard Emma shouting.
“You see that,” King Shaw was yelling at her. “He’s still standing Emma. I want him on his knees!”
I could hear the crowd around me crying out for blood. I didn’t know whom they were cheering for. The sound simply echoed though me, they had no mercy for me, and neither did the King. But I wasn’t going to give up. I flicked my powers out towards this man, forcing him to trip in the sand. I staggered forward with my blade, but almost fell in shock as some bright red creature appeared before me in a haze of smoke, which stung my eyes and burnt at my lungs and my throat. I cried out in astonishment, and then choked on the smoke.
The red creature was in the shape of a man, with a swiping demon-like tail. I was beyond shocked right now, unable to even breathe. He looked at me as if it was great surprise for me to be standing in front of him, rather than the other way around, then he hit Janos hard across the face with a flick of his tail.
“Xavier,” he said, his voice low and his face intense. “The fae queen has a message for your King.”
I was bleeding right now, and I really didn’t know what the hell was going on now. King Shaw was on his feet, and he was calling for his guards. But the people who had a chance against this red skinned fae, were or had been, busy being beaten to death. Emma and Erik looked about ready to jump to Shaw’s defence, as I did, staggering about on my feet.
He held out a scroll for me to take. I didn’t know how I managed to even find the energy to reach for it. My vision was spinning, and the moment that he disappeared I felt my legs give out. I remembered vomiting a mouthful of blood before I collapsed into darkness, feeling certain that I wasn’t going to wake up. I managed one last thought, and sent it outwards, Erik.
Chapter 11: Emma Vs Erik
Charles wakes to find Erik and Emma are arguing, and his future once more, is full of danger.
When I wrote this chapter, it was over 5000 words long. So I’ve split it up for my own sanity. I don't think anyone is going to guess what is going to happen next... and that makes me nervous. I really hope it will continue being... good? Erm, I guess more confessions/revelations before plot-arc number-two arrives. :D
I woke to find I was sitting in a chair, but since my head felt like it was filled with rocks, I my first thought I’d be better off on the floor. I had the worse headache of my life, and the light in the room was painful against my closed eyes. For a moment I just stayed where I was, listening and not understanding what I was hearing. But after a few minutes, I started to remember why I felt so ill, and recalled all the knocks I had taken in the yard. I was suddenly rather amazed that I had survived at all.
Then I remembered the red-skinned fae, who had appeared out of nowhere. He’d halted the fight, and I’d finally passed out.
I hoped that if I kept my eyes closed, and my breathing even, I would float away into that darkness again. But it didn’t come for me; no dark feathered wings would take me away again.
“I’ve never seen him like that,” Emma was saying. Her voice was uncertain and shaky, and I tried to image her face, worried and pale. I wished I could reassure her that I was aright, but I couldn’t have moved even if I had wanted to.
“That’s you all over Emma, isn’t it,” Erik mocked her. His voice was reassuring to my racing heart, and even though he sounded just as angry as Emma, I was glad he hadn’t abandoned me.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Emma demanded.
“You’ve ruined him! I always knew you would. This isn’t the Charles I know, you’ve made him into a vicious little pet!” Erik said. I felt the anger within him keenly, and I was glad that I didn’t have to look at him. He made me feel ashamed, and my spirit dimmed. “I never wanted to send him to you in the first place.”
“Then why did you?” Emma snapped. I was curious about this myself. No it was more than curiosity, I was aching to know the truth. I felt as if I had been skating over lies for so long that it had brought me nothing but emptiness. I wanted the truth even if it broke me apart.
“If you wanted Charles, why did you send him to me? You know what it is like here Erik. I don’t understand, and neither does Charles…” Emma continued, her anger growing too. The atmosphere in the room was crackling with the tension and the prospect of truths being spilled.
I held my breath. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be hearing this. I wasn’t supposed to be awake. The fact that Emma hadn’t noticed yet, either said they’d deliberately tried to keep me asleep with potions, or that she was too angry to even notice anyone other than Erik.
“Because… I had to. You wouldn’t understand,” Erik replied. His answer disappointed me, and the way in which he’d avoided the truth seemed so very unlike his usual gruff straightforwardness. It was unlike Erik to care for intrigue.
“Oh,” Emma said, followed by a scoffing laugh. “I understand! You’re a coward, and you couldn’t look that boy in the face and tell him the truth. So, instead you sent him here, and you say I ruined him?”
“He could have died today Emma,” Erik replied darkly, his voice a warning that his temper was rising dangerously. “You didn’t even fight Shaw, you just led him out like a lamb to the slaughter. It’s only ever about image and power to you isn’t it!”
I was starting to become dizzy from all the shouting and the accusations. I disliked being talked about as if I was a possession or a prize. I already felt like a prisoner here. I’d had no choice but to do the king’s bidding, and follow my mistress’ orders. It had never even occurred to me to run, or refuse. I was a puppet, brainwashed by this glittering and perilous city...
“Might I remind you Erik, before you become too high and mighty, that you did the same? Raven was in that yard too. Or had you forgotten that? It’s not surprising you overlooked her. You spent all your time staring at Charles!” Emma’s words were designed to wound. She was trying to provoke Erik into another argument, and was using me as her weapon. The subject of myself was clearly Erik’s weak spot, but only since he refused to be truthful.
“Raven isn’t my apprentice,” Erik said after a pause. The confession cut through the hostility in the room, leaving only confusion in its wake. “She may do as she wishes, and since you threw Charles out into that fight, she could hardly refuse the challenge. I couldn’t refuse on her behalf. But believe me Emma, if I could have, I would. I wouldn’t have failed Charles like you’ve done.”
There was silence in the room now. I opened my eyes with great effort, to see that Emma was watching me with her usual coolness. Her mouth was a hard line as she fought to compose herself.
“Charles has had to make many sacrifices, so that Raven could continue to be a child in the West,” Emma said at length. “Because I see she still is a child. Is she not to your taste then Erik?”
Erik was looking at me too. His eyes burned into me almost aggressively, and I found it most unfair that I was tied to this chair by my unmoving body. All I could do was stare back at him, until he looked away.
“I have no desire to make a lover out of Raven Xavier,” Erik replied very carefully, as if he wanted to make that abundantly clear to everyone in the room. It didn't make things clear, it only made them more confusing.
It was only then that I noticed Raven was also with us. Sitting on the floor beside the door, half hidden in shadows. She looked up at me, but once she realised I was awake, she dropped her gaze to the floor. She was as far away from me as she could possibly be, whilst being forced into in the same room.
I wanted to know what she thought of all that was being said, and whether she was sorry that Erik had no plans for her. But a brief touch on her mind told me that she felt no anger at all. All there was, was fear, and it was all directed at me. She was fearful over what had happened, how I would react, and what was to come. It was overwhelming and I left her mind to it’s whirring. I felt sorry for her above everything, since she had finally come to understand, that our calling would destroy us. It was no longer simply a battle between us two.
Erik stepped towards me, and placed a hand on my forehead. For a second I had wondered what he was going to do to me.
“He’s burning up,” he declared, still without truly looking at me. I could have been anything, just another piece of furniture for all he seemed to care right now, but then his hand travelled gently down the side of my face.
When he cupped my chin, he released my body from its trance, and I felt every ache, sting and burn as if they were brand new. But I could move again, and although I was uncomfortable, I knew I’d survive.
I dared another look at Raven, she seemed mostly healed, and I guessed the healer with the glasses had returned to finish what he had started with her. He apparently hadn’t paid the same courtesy to me.
“Why do I still hurt?” I asked Erik, as his hand lingered on my skin. It was if my question brought him back to himself, and his touch left me, along with the warmth it had given.
“Because our King will enjoy seeing you like this,” Erik replied bitterly as if he was quoting something. “Isn’t that right Emma?”
I looked at Emma, but she turned away from me. Her mind was closed and I suddenly felt cold and as afraid as Raven.
“Your bitch of a mistress has further plans for you Charles… but unfortunately for us, she doesn’t care to share them,” Erik continued, just as resentfully. I had the sense to know that his current anger had not been caused by, or directed at me.
I felt pathetic sitting here, so I tried to stand. Pushing myself up slowly. Erik watched me with a despairing look on his face, before his hand shot out to grab me before I fell forward. His grasp on me wasn’t careful, he held me up roughly, as if he wanted to shake me into being stronger. I gave him a grateful look anyway, and that only seemed to trouble him more. He kept me at arms length.
“The King has requested our presence,” Emma told me, ignoring the fact that I was only on feet because Erik had hold of me. Her brush off of my obvious weakened state seemed very unlike her, and her icy demeanour had never been turned towards me before.
“Now?” I asked. But of course it would be now. It would be right now, when all I could feel was sharp pains, and my lungs burned, and my head pounded. Now, when I would likely say something stupid because of my concussed brain, and King Shaw would finally have his chance to stab me, and put me out of my misery.
“Don’t be so dramatic Charles,” Emma scolded me. “I didn’t train you to be afraid.”
I blinked at her. I supposed I was afraid, and she was right, this was not what she expected from me. But I knew what had happened to that cocky little bastard who had been strutting around the city for the past year, his sister had finally kicked some sense into him. I realised that the fear I should have had for this place since day one, had finally caught up with me.
“You’ll have to get changed,” Emma said. “Erik will help you.”
She seemed sad, and it worried me. No amount of pleading from my eyes could tempt her to warn me of what I was about to step into next. In fact she avoided looking at me as she ushered Raven out of the room.
It was only when she was gone, that I realised I was covered in dried blood, and looked disgusting. I was about to ask Erik something, but his free hand suddenly ripped my shirt out from where it was tucked into my trousers. I felt my face immediately heat up, turning bright red; I let him turn me to face him while he undid the buttons.
“I can do this myself,” I snapped, stopping his hand from touching me. The cool air on my skin, made me shiver, not to mention the dark look in Erik’s eyes as he kept a tight hold on me.
“Oh really?” he asked suddenly letting me go. I knew he’d won his argument when I stumbled and my legs threatened to give out again. “Lying is becoming a habit of yours.”
Chapter 12: Emma had a little Lamb
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
I refused to talk Erik him again, or even look at him as he wrapped his arms around me, and lifted me from the floor. With my face pressed into his neck, all I could smell and see was him. I didn’t know how to describe how he drew me in, and made my heart race with what I was now coming to understand was desire. A sudden wave of terror hit me, and I forced myself to stay perfectly still in his arms, like the prey of a predator playing dead.
I knew I was back to my annoying best, it had been a while since I could use my childish skills, and I knew my lack of reaction to being picked up, was irritating Erik. I also knew he would have preferred dragging me in here kicking and screaming, because it was becoming abundantly clear that I knew him better than I knew myself. But, as if in defiance of my belief, he managed to surprise me by ignoring his temper, and being overly gentle with me. I have been expecting him to fling me down somewhere, just so we could go about our usual fight, but instead he sat me down carefully in a chair. I watched him fill a bowl with water from the waiting jug.
I didn’t know where we were, but we were clearly in someone’s bedroom apartments. They were expensive too, like Emma’s rooms, although not quite as ornate. Maybe these rooms belonged to Erik? He seemed to know where everything was after all, and since he worked for Shaw, he had to have somewhere to live in the City. With that thought in mind, suddenly my surroundings became a lot more interesting and relevant.
But still, I wasn’t really in the mood for light humour. I was hurting all over, and perhaps that showed in my face, as his smile disappeared. I had never felt comfortable with Erik when he was in a good mood, I’d had little practice. I wondered it might be better to return to our old tricks, at least we knew that game well. I’d annoy him, he’d lose his temper and we’d lash out at each other. Only, now it felt different somehow. I didn’t know what had changed, but I felt that if we taunted each other into losing our cool right now, it wouldn’t end in Erik rapping my knuckles with a cane.
“Ha ha,” I replied, copying his tone. I pulled my shirt up over my head, wincing with the effort and felt his eyes on my bruised torso. I looked down also, I was a wash of colours, yellow, blue, green, red… no wonder I hurt. “I don’t want to live here anymore, can’t I leave?” I asked him, the confession falling out of my mouth without me even meaning to speak.
He didn’t reply at first, just helped me wash and dry my face and hands. He left me for a moment, and then came back with some clothes for me to change into. Emma must have fetched them, and I knew she had left behind my white fur cloak, the one that Erik hated, I’d spotted it earlier.
I hesitated to start removing my trousers. I’d never undressed in front of Erik before, and I wasn’t overly keen to be starting now. Especially not when I looked like a patchwork of bleeding. But I supposed I had little choice, I’d never have managed any of this on my own.
“You’re bound to Emma, Charles,” Erik replied, not looking up at me. His tone was matter of fact, as if he didn’t dare say what he really wanted to. “Nothing can change that.”
“Nothing?” I questioned. He hadn’t sounded too certain when he had said that. Surely there is a way out.
“There are ways out of apprentice bonds Charles, as with all things. Emma might die, you could kill her, or you could die, and she might kill you. Maybe the King could release you… but, since the King appears to like torturing you Charles, I wouldn’t hold out much hope,” Erik said as he placed my boots on the floor. I looked at my feet, even my socks had managed to get bloodstained, and I dreaded to see the state of my toes. It felt as if they’d been bleeding as well as everything else and I didn’t dare move them. Erik put the bowl on the floor, pulled off my socks and helped me put my feet in the water. I felt a warmness spreading through the water, calm and almost loving in its touch as Erik healed my wounds.
I looked down, the water had turned red, and Erik’s hands hovered over me. I was about to thank him, when he looked up at me with an almost hopeful expression on his face. The words caught in my throat.
“Do you want to be un-bound?” he asked me. I knew there was an underlying hope somewhere in that question, and it concerned us both. If I was un-bound, then I would be free. Free to be bound again. I avoided the idea like a hot coal, it was too dangerous a thought to play with.
“Yes,” I whispered. I was so very aware of being too close to him right now, and I moved out of his healing hands.
We continued then as if nothing had happened, as if the conversation hadn’t been spoken. But my mind was whirling. Was Erik lamenting over not apprenticing me? And was I thinking the same? No, I refused to let my mind wander down that path.
“Were you really apprenticed to the King?” I asked him, changing the topic as quick as I could. Only I seemed to have stumbled into something even more awkward, because Erik looked away with a regretful expression.
“Did Emma tell you about that?” he asked. He didn’t sound thrilled that I’d found something out about his past, and I wondered why he had always been so closed up about it. Not once, had I ever heard him speak of his apprenticeship, or the mage who had trained him.
I had assumed perhaps he just didn’t like me enough to share his stories with, and I supposed my younger self might not have cared to listen anyway. But it was clear his past had not been a happy one.
“Yes,” I replied, hoping for more, but he was silent on the subject. I knew he wasn’t about to tell me anything. Maybe I deserved that.
He helped me to my feet, and told me he wasn’t going to look as I changed. I believed him, and when I looked up at his face, his eyes were closed. His face looked oddly serene like that, and I wished I’d had the luxury to look at him a bit longer, but I was supposed to be awkwardly getting out of my trousers. I felt like a complete fool, not being able to do something so simple, but the feeling in my limbs was still sluggish.
I knew I needed to be patient. I was still healing, and although I couldn’t feel it, I was drawing power from Erik in order to do it. Soon I would be back to my old self, but I wished it might come faster.
He allowed me to walk back into the main room, and although it was painful and slow, I was glad I could still do something unaided. Unless leaning on the wall counted as aid, it probably did, but I refused to let it lessen my achievement.
It was a long walk down the halls to find the King. Erik kept a hold of me to keep me on my feet, and with every step walking became a little easier. But I still looked a broken mess. I caught sight of myself in a reflection from a window, and couldn’t understand why Emma would want me to stay like this. The skin around my eyes was bruised, my right cheek was swollen, there was graze to my jaw and small cuts everywhere from where Raven had sliced at me with her fingernails. At least my nose had returned to normal… I was vain enough o care about that.
But the walk was like a walk to the gallows. By the time I stepped in front of Shaw’s large ornate desk, I was terrified. He looked at me as if he was seeing me for the first time, sweeping up and down me, taking in every inch. Then he looked over Erik with a dark gaze, before it softened as my sister stepped into view. No one had ever been able to be cruel to Raven, not even Shaw. Expect for when he was ordering me to smash her face in like a peach.
Emma was stood behind her like a shadow, and she had not looked up at me once since I’d walked in the room. I tried silently asking her once again what she had planned, but all she would say was.
Do you trust me?
Yes, I answered. And even if I didn’t, I was bound to do as she instructed anyway, so it made little difference. I did trust her, but it didn’t mean I was going to like what happened now.
“Well, this is an odd arrangement isn’t it…” Shaw said rather jovially, standing from his chair, and walking around the front of his desk to stand in front of me. I looked up at him with apprehension. “I have a war-mage who tells me she will never bond with her apprentice. And I have another war-mage, who won’t even commit to apprenticing his ward. What is the matter with you both?”
He touched my face affectionately, but I would not be taken in. I knew his true colours now, and he would never fool me again. I found his touch repellent, and I forced myself not to cringe as he inspected my face. He seemed momentarily fascinated by my cuts and bruises, and I knew Emma had some scheme in the works. She knew his tastes, and Erik had been afraid of this.
I knew I was crazy to have trusted her yet again. I could have asked Erik to heal me when we’d been alone. I knew he would have, but like a little lamb following behind its mother, I hadn’t thought to defy Emma. I still wouldn’t, I’d stand here at let this monster touch me, because she commanded it.
“So Charles… as you know, I am under siege from two different enemies,” Shaw said as if this conversation was just a matter of course. He didn’t seem to know or care that I was on the brink of passing out again. I couldn’t stand to be around him anymore, he made me sick. “I need to start moving the pieces on the board, and I need you all to start acting according to my laws.”
He let us linger in silence for a moment, and I saw Raven dart a worried look at me. She was just as afraid right now as I was, and I could see the worry on her face as the King continued to stare at me.
“If you will not bond with Charles then I will,” King Shaw decided, looking at Emma.
I couldn’t keep the shock off of my face, and I heard Erik’s sharp intake of breath. Emma on the other hand simply bowed her head to Shaw in submission. When she looked up, her eyes were cold.
“As you will, your grace,” she said, throwing me into the waiting hands of death once more.
His words had horrified me. Bond with Shaw? I would rather die. I would rather cut out my own heart. I would rather do a million things than be close to this man. I idea of him touching me, kissing me, forcing me into bed, was too much. I didn’t know if I was projecting my thoughts or not, but Erik seemed too look a little more sickened as the seconds passed.
“And if you will not apprentice the girl,” he added turning to Erik, who had to force his disgusted expression into something more neutral. “I will have Emma do it.”
“Charles?” Erik spluttered at last, his tone disbelieving. “You want Charles?”
I watched him look over at Emma, and I couldn’t believe that she had let me walk into this lion’s den without any warning. I didn’t blame him for being surprised, I wouldn’t have proposed to be either… but that was beside the point.
I felt sick again, too severe to ignore and my weak legs were shaking. I chanced another look at Raven and she was deathly pale, too afraid to even move. Her hands were tight balls at her sides, nails digging into her skin. She looked at Shaw as if he was a vicious snake about to strike, and she was right to do so.
Oh God Erik help me, I send towards him in desperation. There was no point in appealing to Emma. She’d sold me to Shaw, if only I understand see why. She’d made a bargain with him, and right now, I couldn’t forgive her for it. Why would she do this to me?
“Charles has been busy making himself known in this city. He’s proved himself dangerous in many ways,” Shaw answered, he was still touching me and it made me recoil. Every fibre of my being wanted to escape from him, my heart was screaming at me to run. I had thought I’d rid myself of his amorous affections, and I had taken my punishment for causing them in the arena. Why was I still being plagued by him? Why would Emma stir all of this up once more?
“The rumours circulate… you must have heard them Lehnsherr. I will marry again, which brings me to my next point… Charles is the most desired in the whole city, therefore,” he said looking at me again, and I felt all the blood rush away from my face. “I am going to take him as my consort.”
It was not a question, it was a statement. There was no way out for me. He might pretend there was, but I knew, I was trapped. Raven was gaping at me, and I could hardly believe this myself. Clearly I had made more of an impression here than I’d meant to. But there was something churning inside of me now, and it wouldn’t go away. Emma had seen this coming, and she had done nothing to stop it. She’d dressed me finely and pushed me in front of the king like a worm on a hook.
“Oh holy shit,” I heard my sister exclaim at last. Her mind was in turmoil, but the overriding emotion was fear. But I didn’t dare look anywhere but at Shaw, who was returning my gaze as if he wished to either eat me, or destroy me.
“No, you can’t have Charles,” Erik cut in, his voice harsh and low, like a threat.
“I can’t?” Shaw snapped. “I am the King, I will do what I like. You think I care he’s Emma’s apprentice? She belongs to me, and so do you! I will use you all as I see fit.”
I didn’t dare to speak. I felt like I was an exhibit in a zoo, with everyone staring and wondering what I would do next.
“Do you want to marry me Charles?” Shaw finally asked me. I’d know it was coming and yet the words were like being suddenly thrown headlong into a nightmare. I could hear Emma screaming in my mind now.
For God’s sake Charles, say yes! I’m commanding you. Say yes.
Emma had never begged me for anything, she just took what she wanted. Her terrified voice in my mind made me waver. I had been about to flat out refuse, and face the consequences, but now I hesitated. I didn’t dare look at Erik, he’d already stood up for me once and Shaw’s threat had not been an empty one. We might be war-mages and we might be rare, but this was a King who broke his toys rather than shared them. He’d kill us all without a second thought.
“Your Grace, I want to marry you…” I managed to choke out, feeling as if my soul had shrivelled and died with those words. I had betrayed my own heart, but in the end, Emma had trained me well. I would obey her in all things.
“I don’t know what I expected from you Charles… you’ve always gone out of your way to disobey me,” Shaw said, his voice growing harsh and King-like once more. “I see you’ve finally come to your senses.”
I didn’t dare reply. I knew if I opened my mouth I’d just be sick. This had to end at some point, he’d send me out of the room eventually. Like teeth pulling, I just needed to get through it. Then I could scream.
“Erik you will travel into the Dark Lands and seek out this fae Queen. You will tell her that I will not meet her demands. Charles belongs to me, and we will meet her on the battle field, is that understood?” Shaw commanded. His instruction left no room for argument, and I could see my life suddenly mapped out before me in a gruesome farce. I’d be his puppet consort, being shown off to all, killing all he pointed his finger at. But I didn’t understand what me becoming his consort had to do with the war the fae wanted to bring upon us all.
“This isn’t a request Lehnsherr,” he continued. “I will marry Charles by the end of the week, and you will leave tomorrow. Emma will apprentice the girl.”
Raven looked astounded, and I could feel the sentiment echoed on my face. Emma was going to apprentice Raven? I looked at Erik, and he returned my gaze with fury behind his eyes. I stood straighter and refused to cower before any of them.
“Now, out all of you,” Shaw demanded, returning to his chair behind his desk. I could see the letter the red-skinned fae had given me in the arena laid out before him. I couldn’t read it upside down, but there was one word that stood out to me, and that was my name.
Clearly being the King’s betrothed gave me no additional benefits, not that I expected any, and soon all of us were walking quickly out of the castle and into the poring rain outside. Once in the relative safety of the grim street, Erik grabbed hold of Emma and slammed her roughly into the nearest wall. I guessed I wasn’t the only one then, that he liked to do that to. But I was too shocked to even react, and simply listened to my sister trying to make him stop.
Then Emma suddenly transformed into something new. I found myself staring at her as her skin changed into beautiful clear diamonds, and she looked back at Erik coldly. He let her go reluctantly. She had only every shown me this power once, and seeing it again on this miserable street left me amazed.
“What have you done Emma?” Erik demanded. I wanted to ask the same thing, and I suddenly the wetness on my cheeks was not just because of the rain. I was crying, with fear, anger, shame, I wiped the tears away with my sleeve, and the rain washed away the rest.
“That letter from the fae,” she answered straightening her cloak. “It demanded Shaw send Charles to their Queen, or they would declare war on us. I knew Shaw would never agree to that, he wants war. He wants to crush the fae. He was going to have Charles killed and he was going to send his body to the fae in mockery. So I did what I had to do Erik. I sold Charles to the King to save his life.”
I couldn’t think of a thing to say to her. Didn’t she realise that she had sold me into a life of hell? What was the point of being alive if this was what awaited me?
“Look Erik, I did what I had to do,” Emma said, she was looking at me as if she wished she could rewind time. “Charles is freed from me, he’s not yet bonded to Shaw… I suggest you make the most of this chance.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, Charles you can either stay here and marry the King, or you can go with Erik and find out what the fae Queen wants of you. I’m sorry, but it’s the best I could do for you.”
Charles, I am not happy to lose you. But you were never mine to begin with and we both knew that. You belong with Erik… And I release you from all promises to me. Go, Charles, your life was never meant to be unhappy.
I’m scared of this, I confessed. I was frightened of what my bond with Erik really meant. Was I forever going to be filled with such turmoil and pain?
I know. That is my fault too. She answered.
I frowned, but my path had been made for me. I was only ever going to walk one step behind Erik, and I was going to follow him now. We’d run from the Shaw’s reach, into the danger of the Dark Lands, and into the danger of each other. In that at least… we were equal.
Please forgive me Raven, I sent to her before I prepared to run away into the night. Erik had a hold of my hand as if there wasn’t another second to be lost, and I could feel the urgency pouring from him.
He would take me with him, no questions asked. Leaving me behind had never even crossed his mind, I knew, I could see it all now. He’d protect me like Emma could never have done, and Shaw would never touch me again.
I love you Charles, was all Raven’s mind would give me as we parted. At last I felt we were standing in the places we had always meant to be, and it was time for our lives to begin again.
We'll be swapping back to Erik's POV next, yay :)
Chapter 13: A Game Beginning
Charles and Erik make their escape out of the South City and begin a journey.
Just being around Charles again made me feel like I was suffocating. It had brought everything back. All that I had been trying to forget, stronger and more overwhelming than ever before. I couldn’t believe I’d managed to resist this before, or had found the power to send him away. And yet I couldn’t describe the feelings I had for Charles, no more could I understand them. I felt like a slave to something far greater than myself, who was simply playing with me, and it didn’t help that when I looked at Charles he simply looked the same as he’d always had. In his eyes was a mixture of distrust, anger, and a playful glint that told me he was still intent on causing me trouble.
I was running behind him now, my eyes fixed on the white of the fur around his shoulders. We were staying in the shadows and back alleys like criminals, and it seemed that Charles knew this city all too well. He knew how to navigate his way around this seedy part of the city without any help from me, which was fortunate since I was well and truly lost.
As we rounded a corner, I suddenly realised where we were, in the oldest and most decrepit part of the town. Doubling my pace I caught Charles by arm, pulling him towards me and wrenching the white cloak from his shoulders before he even realised what he was happening.
“What are you doing?” he demanded, trying to pull away from me. I let him go once I’d thrown the cloak into the darkness of the alley. Someone would find it, and it would either be a clue, or something to sell.
“We’re on the run Charles,” I replied bluntly, we needed to be inconspicuous. I didn’t bother to explain this; I knew he was reading my mind from the serious look on his face. Which wasn’t such a problem for me, but Charles would be out of the ordinary even in rags. “We’ll have to split up.”
He looked up at me alarmed. Without the fur he was shivering, and I was loathed to leave him, but I order to run we needed money, and we couldn’t be spotted together. I didn’t trust our luck. Even though Charles couldn’t have been thought missing yet, I still didn’t want to take chances. As long as Charles was safe, I could return for the things we needed.
“Wait for me outside the South Gate,” I instructed him. “Give me half an hour, and stay out of sight.”
Once Charles was gone, I hurried back towards the royal stables to find our horses. Only, when I walked among the stalls, I realised I wasn’t alone. Stretching out with my powers, I caught the man lurking in the shadows, feeling for the metal on his body and sending him flying back against the wall. He hit with a thump, and I stalked towards him pointing the sharp edge of my sword at him.
“Who are you?” I demanded of him, watching him struggle to free himself from my hold over him.
“You’re taking a big risk in helping us,” I warned him.
“I don’t see why. If Charles wants his horse, it’s my duty to assist him. Where you decide to take him is none of my concern,” Alex replied, as if he had been rehearsing that speech. He stared back at me unafraid, and I let him go.
“None of your concern,” I repeated back to him. “Yes, I agree.”
“I’ve saddled your horses, you’ll find provisions, money and clothes in the packs,” he said walking away from me. There was nothing more to say, and the blond man snuck out into the street.
I took the reins of the horses and led them out into the yard. Jumping up into the saddle, I nudged my horse into a trot, Charles’ grey horse followed behind dutifully. I headed for the City gates, all the while, thinking of Charles.
I had thought I was doing the right thing by him. I had never felt from him any indication that my feelings might have been returned, and even now he was just as cold towards me, his eyes never showing my once ounce of affection. I supposed I had earned that, by not ever being honest with him. I’d caused unnecessary hurt between us, but it was too late not to put that right.
At least I had been correct in some ways. Charles had indeed belonged in the South. Under Emma’s gentleness he’d grown into something out of recognition. I could feel the power rolling off of him, something that had always been there before, but his stubbornness had refused to access under my instruction. Without me to fight against, he must have flourished.
I remembered the shock I had felt at seeing him stood next to King Shaw. Like a marble statue, he had looked down on the world and on me with distain. He didn’t belong to anyone, not even King Shaw could break that defiance that had plagued me. Only Emma, with her icy stare, glamour and charm could reach him. I was jealous beyond anything I had ever felt before.
And now… he was to be mine again. I couldn’t believe that fate would give me another chance. I was determined to make things right between us. To show him how wrong I was to send him away. Explain how much I wanted him, and how I could think of nothing else. He hadn’t been bonded with Emma yet, so I had time to convince him to love me in return. But I knew it would not be easy to make him trust me again.
Charles couldn’t love Emma because of me. That had to be true. I needed to believe it more than anything. And I was too selfish to let him go. I never would. Not unless he begged me. And that would be the day I took a blade to my own heart. I couldn’t live without Charles in my life. The thought of losing him told me this. All the days spent in agony in the West told me this. I would endure his hatred of me, just to be near him. I’d follow him around forever. I’d love him until he killed me.
I thought back to this morning.
“It’s Charles, isn’t it? He’s your bonded soul, isn’t he?” she said with a confidence and knowing that was far beyond her years. She sounded full of sadness, as if she had been pretending all this time with me too. “It’s alright Erik… I’ve always known.”
Her words had come out of nowhere, and I was suddenly aware that my hands were shaking. Thinking of Charles had left my mouth dry and my heart beating in alarm at the prospect of having to face all that I had tried to hide.
“You’ve been kind to me Erik. But you don’t love me. It’s always been Charles… I just don’t understand why you denied yourself this.”
I felt as if I was finally being given the permission to tell Raven what I’d been keeping a secret from her. I knew I was going to hurt her too with my confessions, but it couldn’t be helped. I couldn’t lie anymore.
“Charles hated me… hates me still,” I blurted, speaking from my own hurt feelings before I even considered my words. Raven scowled at me.
Sending Raven to Emma would have meant keeping Charles a prisoner in a miserable life. He couldn’t have done that to Charles, not matter what I wanted. I’d had to set him free. That is what I told myself, every day, every time my heart broke. I’d done this for Charles.
“You’re an idiot Erik. He didn’t hate you,” Raven shouted at me, as if I’d missed something glaringly obvious. But being around Charles had made me crazy; I couldn’t see anything beyond him. He had consumed every thought and every waking moment, until I couldn’t even breathe without him. “He just hated what he had been called for. We both did. Why did you do it?”
Even Cook had plagued me with questions over my decision. She had not understood either, and it was if by loosing Charles I lost something I her too. Her spirit seemed to weaken until she was no more. I knew I had let her die disillusioned with me.
“I wanted to set him free,” I replied, hearing the weakness of my reasoning as I spoke it. It was the first time I had admitted to myself how wrong I had been. I was tired of trying to justify myself. I had failed everyone around me, and there was no more excuses to give.
“No, this is just another form of capture,” Raven protested, not allowing me to hide behind another lie I had been spinning myself. “You should have let him make the choice if you really believed you were doing this for him. You’re a liar Erik!”
“Alright! I was scared. I didn’t understand what I felt until it was too late. I thought I was going to die when he rode away from me. And now… it’s like standing next to ice when I am near him. I’ve done this. I don’t need you to punish me Raven, I’ve done enough on my own,” I shouted at her in return.
Raven had turned from me, and stood a little straighter. She pulled her hair back from her face, tied it back, and straightened her belt. Looking at herself in the mirror, her face was devoid of any emotions. She’d not even reacted when I’d raised my voice. She was as cool as block of ice, just like her brother.
“Then, why don’t you hate me?” I asked. I wanted her hatred. I wanted my own hatred of myself to be validated. I did not want kindness and pity. I wanted her scream at me, hit me, and curse me for what I had done to them both. But she wouldn’t indulge me.
Riding out of the city, I felt as if I had escaped from the jaws of a terrible beast. I felt Charles’ touch upon my mind as I rode down the road; his hesitant brush against me guided me to his hiding place in the surrounding crop of trees. He was waiting for me, looking cold and miserable, but when he saw his horse, my heart swelled with the smile that crossed his face.
“I thought you might not come back for me,” he said, patting his horse tenderly on its neck.
I didn’t answer him, just wrapped a dark cloak around his shoulders. For a moment he let me hold him, flush to my chest and I felt a shiver crawl over my skin as I felt his breathing against my neck. Then he stepped away from me as if the moment hadn’t even happened, and continued to check over his horse.
To get to the Fae Kingdom, we needed to ride to the far north and into the MacTaggert Clan’s domain. This I was more than apprehensive about, but Charles merely treated the news like he did everything else, with complete indifference. He’d resigned himself to his fate, and I supposed if my choice had been marry Shaw, or ride into certain doom, I wouldn’t have any regrets about saddling my horse either. But it did sound like over enthusiastic punishment on Shaw’s side, and I wondered if there was something to this that I wasn’t aware of.
“How long will it take us to reach the north?” he asked me.
“Maybe a month by road,” I answered seeing his eyebrow rise up at me.
“We can take the lay-lines,” I said, knowing I had his interest now. “Have you every travelled by magic Charles?” I asked him, knowing I had beaten Emma to showing him something, and he looked at me with renewed interest.
“No, Emma says it is dangerous, and I wouldn’t know how to get into one,” Charles admitted, and there was a eagerness in his eyes now, and a delicious blush of excitement across his face. I watched him jump up into his grey horse, swinging his leg over like it was some like of dance. I wondered if Emma had instructed him in that as well, since everything he did was so full of grace that he appeared to be floating whilst others were struggling through a bog.
“I wont let anything hurt you Charles,” I said, earning myself a quizzical stare, before he kicked his horse forward. I let him set the pace, the horses galloping through the long grass, avoiding the main road.
We travelled South to the nearest magical point, the southern most lay-line that cut across the main road, known as the Army Road. So called for all the soldiers who had trodden it, over the centuries into war. Charles listened with interest to the stories I told him of all the battles that had been fought near where we rode, until I realised just how natural I felt just being around him, and grew quiet once more.
I couldn’t let myself forget that I was the only one enjoying our closeness. And when we stopped and I offered to help Charles from his horse, he scowled at me and moved his boot out of my offering hand.
“I can do it myself,” he snapped, recalling me into the real world. This was not a journey of love and revelations. We were in affect, enemies, on a journey that would no doubt lead to misery.
“I’m sorry,” I said stepping away. “I didn’t meant to insult you.”
I saw him frown at me, before he slipped off the horse and stood before me. I supposed he was not ever going to grow much taller than he was right now, a head shorter than me. But still, he started up at me defiantly with no idea of how adorable he was, all full of fire.
He watched me cover his horse’s face carefully with a special cloth, for once not asking questions. Jumping lay-lines was a messy business, and the horses hated it especially. It was better they had no idea what was happening to them, and simply dealt with the shifting feeling of losing gravity. There would be no such mercy for Charles and me; we would need to see where we were going. When I was satisfied I held the reins out for him to take, and grasped his hand tightly. For a moment he tried to shrug me off, until I pulled him closer.
“I don’t want to lose you,” I said before stepping forward, the horses following us trustingly. I felt Charles press himself close to me as the dizziness overtook us, and we were launched forward.
Walking into a line was like stepping through a bunch of spider’s webs. The magic wanted to push them out at every moment, and strands of it stuck to skin and wouldn’t shake its hold.
I remembered my first time jumping lines, and remembered how sick I had been for days later. So I took pity on Charles and pushed us out before we hit where the lines crossed each other. We could ride the rest of the way if we needed to, to the next line if Charles was too ill. Jumping in and out of lines was one thing, jumping from one to another was quite another.
As soon as we hit the ground, Charles’ horse reared. With his hand still wrapped round the rein, and disorientated, the grey horse knocked Charles flying, before it bolted, it’s hoof landing across Charles’ leg as it went. Charles was too stunned to even cry out, and as I hurried towards him I found myself forgetting everything but Charles.
“Charles!” I called, taking his head in my hands and searching his face. He looked completely dazed as if he wasn’t even in his own mind anymore. I’d seen him like this before, only once, when he had been locked onto someone’s mind with such concentration that he’d lost himself.
I pulled up the leg of his trousers, and wince at the damage. The Horse’s hoof had left a bloody and bruised imprint on his pale skin.
“Charles!” I shouted again.
“Who was that girl?” he asked, coming around slowly. Suddenly he seemed to recognise me, and then the pain must have hit him. His eyes filled with tears, and he cried out, grabbing at me as if was the only thing that mattered.
“Shh,” I ordered, pushing him back against the grass. “Let me work.”
I concentrated over the wound, holding my hand against his leg. I could feel his bone click together under my touch. I hadn’t even realised it had broken, and his skin knotted together easily until all that was left was the bruises. I sat back exhausted, I’d been draining my powers with healing Charles frequently today, and I was not at my best. Adrenaline had allowed me to patch him up now, but it done for me. I fell back and watched Charles struggle to get his breathing steady as he stared up at the sky.
“That fucking horse,” I cursed looking across the fields for it, finding even speaking to be hard work. It was standing by a hedgerow looking guilty. Or I imagined it was feeling so. It had it’s back to me, and was looking at Charles. It had managed somehow to free itself from the covering. My own horse was still wandering blind.
“Don’t shout at him,” Charles answered me, still laying flat. “It’s not his fault.”
I watched Charles for a moment, thinking he wasn’t looking so well, before he rolled himself over and wretched into the grass. It gave him little relief since our stomachs were both empty, but I found myself crawling near to him and rubbing his back gently. He didn’t seem to notice me, and rolled back so that he was leant against my lap. I wished we might stay here like this, but we had further to go before we could make camp.
“I don’t want to go any further right now,” Charles said, signalling that he had been reading my thoughts. I had missed that, his ability to just know things about me, or what I wanted. Unluckily for me, I’d hidden all the important things too deep.
“Alright,” I surrendered. “We’ll camp here.”
He nodded, satisfied, and I knew then he’d allowed me close for a reason. He’d known I wouldn’t have been able to say no to his request, not when he lay so close, letting me touch him like we were in some kind of dream. Now that Charles had gotten what he’d wanted, he pushed me away.
Chapter 14: The Domestic Wilderness
Charles and Erik find that travelling with each other isn't much fun, and their back doing what they do best.
I awoke in the morning to find that Erik’s arm was wrapped around me, and the length of his body was pressed tight against my back. For a moment I lay very still, feeling my heart beat wildly in my chest. I didn’t dare to move or acknowledge that I was awake, I didn’t want him to see how agitated this enforced closeness was making me. But as soon as I decided not to react, or even breathe, my body started to plague me with twitches and aches that needed stretching.
As I fought against the pains that kept throbbing in my cramped muscles, my leg especially from where my horse had bolted and hurt me, all I could think of was how traitorous my heart was. With every rapid beat it shouted louder and louder, taunting me with the idea to just enjoy the warmth and the protection that Erik was giving me. I wondered whether he’d rolled towards me by accident, or had waited until I was asleep before moving closer, all to shield me from the hostile world.
I couldn’t let this continue, for my on sanity, I couldn’t lie here any longer. Why couldn’t I just hate him? Why did I have to feel so confused all the time? And was it even my feelings? What if it was all a trick, something that Erik had done to me when he’d ‘claimed’ my soul? Was he trying to make me into his slave? Had he sent me to Emma to spy on her like she had first imagined, knowing that eventually, I’d come crawling back to him. But no matter what, I couldn’t deny to myself that keeping this wall between us was becoming more painful. But I was too terrified of what was on the other side to let myself give in now.
Still, it was with great effort that I rolled over and pushed him roughly away from me, hearing him groan as I shoved him. I didn’t even know why he’d want to be so close to me, it hadn’t even been that cold with the fire still burning and with the shelter from large boulders we’d found to hide behind. He made me all kinds of bewildered, and I didn’t want to deal with it.
Erik’s eyes opened and he looked back at me as if I was a stranger, he fell back asleep without a care, rolling away from me as if it meant nothing to him whether I was near or not. Now I felt petty, he hadn’t even been awake enough to notice the effort I’d put into my hard stare. I huffed, threw the blanket I’d been wrapped in over him, and set about rebuilding the fire. Stacking up a few branches, I looked around at our small camp, before flicking my hand and setting the twigs alight. I had the feeling that Erik was awake now, but I refused to look back at him.
“Are you cooking my breakfast?” he asked after a while, turning to look back at me with a smirk. “That’s nice of you.”
I scowled at him and I knew I was rising to the bait by being angry at his jest, but I couldn’t help it. He infuriated the shit out me, and I just didn’t know what to do about it. I could feel his eyes burning into me, and my face was growing redder with every passing second. Something needed to happen to stop this, to make things between us less strange… but until then I’d be as impertinent as I pleased.
“Fuck off Erik,” I snapped, turning back to the fire.
He was lounging on his side now, watching me lazily, that grin was still on his face. I looked away from him quickly, too afraid of my fluttering heart and my wandering thoughts. I could still feel his arm around me, and the warmth of his body. The grin on his face told me he was thinking about it too, which only made he even more annoyed. A stray thought from his mind drifted towards me, a memory now, of me sleeping, my fingers lacing between Erik’s as he wrapped his arm around me. That never happened, I decided, brushing the memory away, he’s a liar.
He moved closer to me, the look in his eyes telling me to be wary. I didn’t know what his intentions were, and rather than face him, I grabbed my piece of bread., and angrily spooned my share of the disgusting looking mystery-meat hash onto it. He reached for my hand, which was still holding the spoon, and I threw it at him clumsily. He caught it and continued to help himself to the rest of the meal as if that was all he’d wanted after all. I left him to it and hurried away from him. I’d rather sit with Spook and Erik’s scary black hunter, than with Erik anyway.
We packed up our camp quickly, and before I knew it we were preparing to jump into the line once more. This time we were going to jump lines into the Northern lay-line, before moving into the Midlines. The very idea of it all made me feel sick, and we hadn’t even made it though one complete journey yet.
I could see Erik looking at me with concern and I couldn’t even be bothered to hide my apprehension. It would do me no favours to pretend to be fine, only to collapse and vomit everywhere again. Better Erik knew I was terrified from the start, and then he wouldn’t be expecting much. I only hoped my horse would be better behaved this time, and not try and snap my legs in half again.
“Stop trying to fight me,” Erik scolded as he pulled me closer towards him, holding me against his chest in a vicelike grip. “If I lose you in the voids, I’ll never find you again. So just let me hold you and stop being so difficult!”
I glowered up at him, until we stepped through the invisible wall of magic webs, and I realised I’d never be able to do this without him. It took only a second of feeling frightened before I realised I’d pressed myself against him, holding my horse’s reins tightly in one hand, my other caught hold of his shirt. Erik’s arms tightened around me in response, and I could hear his heart beating strong and steady in my ear as I pressed my cheek to his chest. We flew forward, and then lurched to the side. All around me was a rush of noise and pictures, and then suddenly, the voice which had called to me before, sweet and like a song, returned to me.
“Charles, you come closer to me,” she said, her voice clear and bright through the din of so many other murmuring sounds, and the rush of the world as it passed us by. “I have been waiting for you, for so long now, I knew you were the one to help me. Come to me, find me.”
I opened my mouth to reply, then I realised that I must be crazy. There was no one here, only Erik and me. And I was falling through nothing with Erik, my stomach churning, my horse tugging at his reins, trying to run but having nowhere to go. I understood his need to bolt, I felt it too, and I closed my eyes against it. Then, at last, we burst through the other side of the line, and I felt myself stumbling. Erik waited only a second before he took hold of me once more. Holding me upright as my vision spun.
“I’m alright Erik,” I whispered, gently pushing myself away from him. But it was difficult to let go, and as soon as I did, I collapsed on the floor. My legs felt as if they had turned into jelly, and I was more tired than ever. All of the past few days had been too much for me, and I was in great need of proper rest. Only I knew, I was unlikely to find that whilst being on the run.
Erik left me alone for a while, as he scouted the area we had arrived in and then returned to sort the horses, freeing them into the fields around us, and then returning to me.
“You’re doing great Charles,” Erik tried to assure me, holding his hand out to help me up. I knew he was just being kind. I didn’t feel like I was doing great at all. I felt stupid. I hated to seem weak in front of him, I wasn’t that little boy from the West anymore, and I was determined to prove it. I knew I could too, if my legs would stop giving out.
“I don’t feel great. Last time I was sick,” I said, taking his hand, but scared to move lest I threw up again. The dizziness inside me was still threatening to do more if provoked.
“Yes, well, I’d probably be sick too if my horse jumped on my leg,” Erik replied with a smile. He looked down at my leg now, as if he wanted to ask how I was, but he kept his question to himself. I supposed he imagined I was reading his mind anyway, only I didn’t need to, his face told me everything. He genuinely was concerned.
I tried to keep the smile off my face, but the idea of Erik’s horse doing anything so crazy as jumping on him was too funny. He smiled at me too, and I suddenly felt afraid and turned away abruptly. I wasn’t ready to make friends with him, and my feelings towards him hurt me too much to delve into.
We walked instead to a small crop of trees and sat down. Jumping lines took longer than I had expected, since it felt like seconds when we were in them, when in fact almost a whole day had passed. I wanted to sleep forever, and once we had eaten and groomed the horses, I spread my cloak down on the floor, and lay down.
I was dozing when I felt shadow fall across me and I woke with alarm. I looked up to see Erik standing over me. With the moonlight behind him his face was in shadow. I blinked wearily up at him. I was too sleepy to make much sense of the world around me, and now I knew he wasn’t a soldier come to kill me, I could feel sleep clawing at me again.
“Can I sleep next to you?” he asked with hesitation.
I felt my eyes closing, unable to stay open anymore. I rolled onto my side away from him.
“Don’t let me get cold,” I mumbled at him, not even knowing what I was saying anymore, half captured by my dreams.
I dreamt of fields full of snow, and fields full of flowers and a girl with tanned skin who walked barefooted through the ice and the long green grass. Her eyes were dark and full of knowing, and her hair black and shining in the sun. She smiled at me, and urged me to hurry to her. Her hands outstretched and full of need for me. I tried to cross the snow, but it was too deep, and she was too far away. I tried to cross the grass, but it tangled around my feet. I called to her to stop, but she walked away from me, looking back with longing. Then there was Erik, pulling me up from the snow and onto his horse. I shivered, and he held me close. His arms around me made me melt against him, breathing in the scent of him.
“Don’t let me go,” I told him.
I could feel him breathing now, from where I lay on his chest. Tucked in beside him safely, held so carefully like I was the most precious thing in the world.
“I wont,” he answered.
My eyes flew open, his voice still in my ears. The jolt of waking so suddenly left me dazed for a moment. I struggled to remember what was real, until I realised that this wasn’t a dream anymore. I was really here, lying in Erik’s arms, the sun rising in the distance. He had his hand in my hair, and I had tucked mine under his cloak. I sat up and moved away from him, I could feel the horrified expression on my face.
“Am I really that bad Charles?” he asked bluntly. I couldn’t tell now if he was joking of not, and I didn’t dare delve into his mind. I would rather live in ignorance.
Why was he doing this to me? It wasn’t me who had rejected him. He couldn’t just decide to like me now, just because there was no other option, that wasn’t fair. Raven was lost to him now, and he couldn’t have her back. So what was I? The second place prize? The last resort? I didn’t want his fake affections. He could go to hell.
“I fucking detest you!” I screamed at him, scrabbling away from him, and pulling my cloak around me.
“Yes, well, that’s too bad. You’re with me now,” he replied with far more command over himself than I had, getting to his feet also.
I had the feeling he hadn’t meant that, but I had pushed into cruelty. I’d always known how to piss him off, and what to say to tempt his temper into acting. But I needed to be careful. He was the stronger one, more powerful. He could do whatever he liked to me, and there was no one around here to stop him. And even if there had been anyone to see, what would a bunch of farmers do? If they saw two mages fighting, they were likely to run for their lives than come and save me. And then Shaw would find us, and I didn’t want to think about that.
"Oh, hooray for me. I’m so lucky. Nothing like being stuck with someone who hates you!” I shouted. I saw my horse prick his ears up, and felt guilty for alarming him, but I just couldn’t stop myself. But shouting at him was alarming therapeutic, and I didn’t even really know why I was so angry.
“Hate you?” Erik bellowed at me before stepping away and rubbing his hands over his face in pure exasperation. I knew if I were him, I would have slapped me by now. I also knew just how much I was out of line shouting at him like this. “I’ve never hated you! Can’t you see what is happening to me?”
“I don’t care what is happening to you!” I screamed, and I truly didn’t. It felt so good just to scream and shout, finally letting go of all the anger inside of me. I wanted to hit something, hurt something, just so it would understand how I felt. But instead I just lifted my eyes to the sky and the heavens opened and we were suddenly drenched.
The downpour lasted only seconds. Enough for my anger to dissipate, and we stood in silence, staring at each other with nothing left to say.
“Did you just make it rain?” Erik asked me, with water dripping down from his hair, running down his face and dropping to the floor.
I looked away and folded my arms. He raised his hand and drew the water off of me, leaving me perfectly dry as if the shower had never happened.
“That’s amazing Charles,” he said, all the anger gone from him. I was still fuming, and I hated the way he could burn though his anger so fast, and I was always left sizzling with annoyance.
“Yes, well… I’ve been training,” I said, watching him dry himself off in the same way. I couldn’t have done what he’d just had, moving the water out of our clothes. I would have had to of walked around soaked had he not helped me. Neither could I heal an injury. I’d tired my best, but it seemed completely beyond me to master. The best I got was to lighten a bruise, not very helpful at all. Exactly what good were my powers? All I could do was ruin things.
“So I see,” he replied, then his serious face returned. “Do you want to talk about this?” he asked. I knew he meant the argument, and although I knew it would be the right thing to do, I just wasn’t ready to hear his bullshit.
I couldn’t forgive him. Not when I hated him so much and I hated myself too for all that I felt. It was the need for revenge that had kept me strong in the South, making me someone to be reckoned with. It had captured me a King, and given me the love of so many people, who knew nothing of me but my reputation of being impetuous. I wasn’t ready to admit I might be changing, or that things might not be how I saw them.
“No,” I said walking away from him. When I looked back, I saw Erik was staring out at the sun moving up in the sky. His shoulders were slumped and he looked so very unlike himself.
Chapter 15: Queen Moria MacTaggert
Charles and Erik meet the Northern Queen.
I really hope this chapter makes sense... It does in my brain, just not sure if it does on the page. eh.
Thank you very much to everyone who has left kudos and for the comments!! :D
We had reached the end of our journey by lay-lines and I was grateful, not only because of the perpetually sickening feeling jumping lines gave me, but because I could finally stop sleeping rough on the ground. Not even the campfire, or Erik’s weird instance of sleeping beside me to keep the chill out of my bones, but this next step on our journey meant we were stepping out of the relative safety of the countryside and walking blind into the Northern lands of the MacTaggert clan. Here it would serve us no good to remain under the cover of the long grasses of the wild moors, hiding from prying eyes. We needed to be seen and known, and once we were known, we would be safe. At least, that was what Erik believed.
However my fears did little to help our situation, and we rode straight for the main City of Yorke, which was now completely off of my tatty self drawn map that I had brought with me. I was relying completely upon Erik, and I didn’t like it. Without him, I would have totally lost here, and I was ashamed to admit that I was cowering behind him as we rode through the city gates. I didn’t know how he could keep riding, when all I wanted to do was turn and run.
As I had imagined, it didn’t take long for the word to spread that we were here. Before I knew it, we were being escorted up to the large grey stone building in the distance, by at least forty armoured men on horseback. I saw Erik look back at me with concern, and I didn’t hide my alarm from him.
Are these people hostile to us? I asked him, sitting inside of his mind, unashamedly taking comfort from him. He didn’t push me out, but rather, he seemed to welcome me, as if he was holding onto my presence.
Charles, you are known throughout the land now. News that the King might make you an offer to be his consort has most likely preceded us. As far as you are concerned, you are an enemy. This visit will not be easy for us.
I pulled away from him. I felt ashamed for the danger I had brought down upon us. But I had never asked for any of this, and the indignation about my situation over took me, filling me with an undercurrent of rage and fighting hard to keep a hostile expression off of my face. To distract myself from my internal anger I busied myself with looking around this grey city. The North was a cold place, there was a threatening of snow in the air and I hoped it wouldn’t fall, as it was cold enough already. I shivered and gripped the reins of my horse a little tighter between my numb fingers.
The buildings, which surround us, were all built from the same grey stone as the castle looming ahead of us, but unlike in the South, where people were afraid of me by legend alone, here people were unmistakably curious. Hanging out of windows to peer at us, and even letting their children run along next to the soldiers.
One little boy hurried next to me as my horse walked over the cobbled street. He had a dirt-covered face, as if he had been playing in the mud. He was determined to get my attention, stumbling as he ran.
“Hey,” he called up at me as he jogged along, puffing with the effort of keeping up. “Hey, are you a wizard? They have wizards in the South, yes?”
I heard Erik laugh in front of me, and he turned in his saddle to look back at me and the little boy. I told Erik to mind his own business and looked down at the boy, who was determined to get his answer. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a gold coin, it had a lion stamped on the side and an eagle on the other, and dropped it into his outstretched hand. The little boy looked up at me completely stunned, then I lost him as he stopped to inspect the coin, looking at it like it was a thing of wonder.
“He gave me a magic coin mama!” he heard him yelling from behind me.
Erik turned to look at me again, and there was a smile on his lips once more.
“You really are soft, you know that,” he called back at me, shaking his head. “We’ll be collecting kids now, a big long trail of them, all the way to the castle.” He had a point, but I didn’t care how many kids tailed behind us. Maybe it would make us look less like a threat.
As it was, while people were still giving Erik a wide berth, no one was bothering to pay me the same courtesy. As we waited in the castle, I realised that I seemed to be on everyone’s list to have a look at, and the crowd that had gathered outside of the castle was ridiculous. This was worse than the day I had fought Raven. I could see Erik scowling at everyone from the reflection in the window, and just to irritate him even further I started waving at random people from over his shoulder.
“Stop that!” he hissed at me, pulling the curtains closed and leaving us in partial darkness. He took hold of my arms to hold me in front of him. “I don’t know what Emma has been teaching you, but our lives are not for everyone else’ entertainment.”
I didn’t reply, just remained where I was letting him continue to hold onto me. I should have pushed him away, but I didn’t. Instead I looked stupidly up into his face like a kid in love, and waited for him to make the first move. I knew then that this something between us was only growing stronger, and try as I might to ignore it; it wasn’t going to go away. I felt as if I was frozen now, a tingle of expectation running over my skin, and I realised just how much I needed him. I couldn’t do this alone.
“Charles, I need to tell you something… and you wont ask me, so I will have to say it, whether you like it or not,” he began, looking at me in such an intense and serious way, that I started to feel foolish for allowing him to remain close to me right now.
I was sure that Erik was about to tell me to keep my distance from him, sure he was leading up to saying something that was going to hurt me. And the worst thing about it, was he was trying to be kind about it, which just made it even worse. I didn’t know how to deal with nice Erik; I felt a nervous wreck around him. I liked angry Erik, who yelled, and hit me with canes and burning torches, he didn’t allow the other feelings to the surface.
“How about, fuck off Erik,” I said, stepping out of his grasp and flinging the curtain open again. He looked at me completely aghast for a moment before that steel in his eyes returned and he grabbed hold of me with such force I nearly screamed.
“You little bastard, is this all just a game to you?” he shouted into my face.
I hadn’t expected such a reaction. Usually he just cursed me and walked off, leaving me alone. This was totally out of the blue, and I could only stare at him wide-eyed and open mouthed in shock.
“Tell me!” he continued to shout, and nothing I could do would make him let go of me. I tried stamping on his foot, but he only held me tighter, his fingers digging into my arms so deep I knew they were leaving marks. “Tell me this is just a game!”
“Is what a game?” I demanded. I wouldn’t look in his mind, I refused. I wouldn’t make this easy on him when he was hurting me. For a few brief seconds I was afraid of him, until I remembered this was Erik, and he had never hurt me unless there was a lesson to be learnt with it. I wondered what this lesson could be.
“This! Everything! You!” he shouted. He made no sense at all, and I think he knew it. Without warning, he pulled me close to him sharply.
I could feel the short pants of his breath against my face, and felt my vision spin for a moment. My whole body was screaming at me, Danger, Danger! But there was nothing I could do to free myself, short of invading him mind and telling him to stop. Only, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make my mind function. My heart was beating too fast, and my breathing was erratically trying to keep up. I knew what was about to happen, and yet, when his lips pressed against mine I began to shake. For all his roughness with the rest of him, his kiss was soft and gentle. I couldn’t fight him anymore, giving up for the briefest of seconds, until he pulled sharply away. As soon as his iron grip left me, I crumpled on the floor. Dropping like a stone, too astonished to even stand.
“I am a Queen, Erik Lehnsherr. You will put that dart away,” she said, looking down at her chest. A metal dart I hadn’t noticed yet was hovering in mid air directly in front of her heart. Despite myself I admired Erik’s handiwork, I would certainly never have that kind of control… over anything. He dropped the dart to the floor, and she kicked it away as if that might save her from its sharp end.
“Apologies Your Majesty,” Erik said through gritted teeth. I willed him not to be rude. We certainly hadn’t made the best of impressions just now, but things could still go a lot worse.
“Well,” the Queen said, leaning against the doorframe in a relaxed way. “I’d heard mage courting techniques were rather unconventional in the South, but throwing your beloved on the floor is rather ungallant.”
She smiled at me, and I hastily pushed myself up onto my feet. Erik’s hand came out to steady me, and I didn’t push him away. I felt too self-conscious under the Queen’s stare to start another fight.
“I’m fine,” I assured her, dusting off my clothes, not that there was much dust on the rough wooden floorboards. “You are Queen Moria MacTaggert?” I asked, walking towards her unsteadily with my hand outstretched. I really didn’t know how to greet her properly, perhaps I should have bowed, but it was a little too late for that, after Erik had threatened her, and I’d spent most of the meeting on the floor.
She smirked at my attempt at a greeting, and then shook my hand as if we were common farmers in the field. She looked at me as if she appreciated my daring, and I could see I had lived up to her expectations. The mage who didn’t quite know his place in the world, who had captivated a Southern King and now was travelling North to start a war. My mind blanked. Start a war?
“How could you tell?” she asked me. “You without a doubt are Charles Xavier. Come, tell me all about yourselves, I would like to hear if all the rumours are true.”
By the time I had finished my story, we had finished eating and were now sitting with cups of wine in our hands and the servants were cleaning the table. I told her all about growing up in the West, about my parents who I had not seen for years now. About living with Erik in the Dark Keep, and the harshness of his lessons. She listened with rapt attention, and when I finished talking of Emma and King Shaw, she was smiling at me. Her smile only slipped from her face when I spoke of the fight had been forced to wage against my sister.
“Your life sounds like the beginning of a legend Charles,” she said at last, tilting her head to the side with curiosity. “Look at all you have experienced… how old are you?”
I looked sideways at Erik, wondering what he was thinking after listening to my side if our tale.
“Eighteen Your Majesty,” I replied at last. She smiled at me again, this time wistfully as if she was remembering something that I had no right to know.
I was glad a moment later that I had a habit of talking too much, when she leant forward and took hold of my hand. She wanted what everyone wanted from me. Ownership.
“I was going to kill you,” she said, her smile never faltering, but her grip holding me in place. I saw Erik straighten in his seat, alert and ready to attack whoever might try. “Instead, I think you are more useful alive.”
I simply stared at her in return. I knew this was a serious situation; I was balancing on a knife’s edge once more. But I had learnt enough in my short time in the South Capital, to know that every favour came with a price, and my life was bound to demand a payment. I was just waiting now to see what she would demand of us.
“I’d like you to stay here with me, and join my service,” she said, leaning back in her seat and watching me.
“Look, we haven’t come here to…” Erik began, and I could hear the threat in his voice beginning to rise. I placed my hand over his, and the surprise of my gesture halted him.
“Nothing would please me more Your Majesty…” I said into the silence. “But I did not refuse one King to say yes to another.”
She laughed and drained her cup empty of wine. I could see that Erik was not at ease here, I could feel the tension in his fingers as I kept my hand over his. He was worried, and maybe he was right to be. I was a reckless person, he was worried about what I was going to or say next. Emma had always said that I made people want to own me, and I completely believed her now. That I was so spirited and free that people just wanted to control that. I dropped my gaze and reached out with my powers towards Queen Moira.
I am sorry your majesty, but I am not a free as I appear. I cannot offer you loyalty or my service, and in the end, you would wish you had never met me.
She looked at me with a confused expression, and I met her eyes steadily. I wanted her to see that there was nothing hostile in me, and that I admired her already, and that Erik and me had not come here to start this war everyone kept talking of. I could tell she was not the kind of woman who was used to being told no, but there was really nothing else I could do. If I could not offer my heart to Emma, I certainly couldn’t offer anything to this woman either.
“You refused him?” she asked me suddenly, breaking through my revere.
“Charles is not going to marry Shaw. Hence, why we are here,” Erik answered for me. “Killing us will not send a message to my King, unless he wants it to. He wants to star a war, and if you wish to avoid that, you will help us. Or, if you wish for war… you will find us much more helpful to you, alive.”
Moria and Erik were staring at each other intently, each waiting for the other to make the first move and look away. But I really wasn’t someone to sit in silence.
“Why does everyone keep mentioning a war? I don’t want a war! We are on a peacekeeping mission Erik,” I said, feeling again like everyone knew the rules of the game apart from me. Did I just walk through the world with my eyes closed? What kind of trouble had I inadvertently started now?
Queen Moira studied Erik with a critical eye. She seemed to see who we were to each other better than we did, and her expression grew sad. She poured herself another drink and let Erik argue with me.
“Don’t be foolish Charles, Shaw has sent me on a suicide mission and you’re on the run. No one refuses him anything and gets away with it, and you are expendable to him now. He doesn’t care if I die either. Which is what is most likely to happen… there is a reason it’s called the Dark Lands,” Erik explained, leaving me with a chill running through me. I hadn’t looked at his mission in this way, and suddenly it all seemed to make sense. Erik had not expected to survive this, maybe only I had a shot since the fae had demanded I meet with them.
Erik was the enemy, and I was the guest. Things had never been so uncertain.
Emma had not been upset because she was losing me to Erik; she’d given me away because at the end of the day, me returning to Erik had always been a possibility. It was only now I realised I had always known it. He’d owned me anyway, with his hold over my heart. What she had been worried for was my inevitable death. Shaw was going to use Erik’s eventual murder, which Erik was certain was coming, for his excuse for war. I’d most likely share Erik’s fate too, and we’d already escaped one potential death. So it seemed my only choice was to hold my nerve and fight. I decided right then and there that I would continue with this journey to the fae and If Shaw wanted a war I would give him one. Only, I wouldn’t die for him.
“There must be someone I can bargain with, in the Dark lands they have asked for me after all. I can’t go home and neither can you,” I said, looking at Moira and Erik as if I was begging them to agree with me. Moira looked away, maybe she was ashamed of threatening me now, when it was so clear I was totally politically clueless.
Then again, if she killed me. Shaw could decide to tell the world I’d been kidnapped and use that as his excuse for war. I was beginning to realise how valuable I was when I came to who killed me.
“If the fae Queen wants you, then she’s not going to let you go Charles. Your value rises and falls with your actions. As Shaw’s betrothed you are a valuable prisoner or your death a message. As his enemy you are either surplus or an ally. Either way, the fae will not let you leave,” Erik warned me seriously, he tried to hold my hand like Moira had done, but I shied away from him and stood.
I starting pacing the room without realising I was doing it. When had my life become such a mess? All I had thought about by running away had been to get away from Shaw, now I was potentially a catalyst for war. Had this been Shaw’s plan all along? Had be tricked us all? Maybe he’d known I would run, and he’d known either the North or the Dark Lands would capture and kill me. Could Shaw have looked that far ahead?
My heart sank once more. I was only a pawn in this game. It was time I started playing harder.
“Not only that,” Erik continued. “You are a un-bonded, un-apprenticed mage… you are completely unprotected and whoever holds you holds power. If you were mine, I could guard you.”
I felt his words like a magnetic pull. My heart desperately wanted to say yes, but I refused to listen. I shook my head as I paced, seeing Moira watching me with great interest. Maybe she hadn’t known all my secrets after all.
“I wont let you apprentice me, just because I am afraid. You don’t want me, you never have!” I shouted at Erik, coming to a stop and feeling dizzy on my feet. “Now you only do because everyone else does, and you feel like you owe me something for what you’ve done to me!”
Moira raised an eyebrow and Erik sat in stunned silence. I continued to pace the room, ignoring everything around me. I couldn’t believe I was shouting in front of a Queen, but Erik made me so angry. I’d only known her a few hours, and yet I was disrespecting her with every step I took. I deserved to have my head on a spike, maybe Erik would be happy then. He could ride home to Shaw and live happily ever after.
“Why Charles?” Moira asked, leaving me to stalk about the room in a rage. “Why does the fae Queen want Charles? I know his value, I would be stupid not to. But, what it wouldn’t matter to her. She could of requested anyone… any of the Southern mages, a more experienced well known mage like Emma Frost would have made more sense, if she wanted to send a message. Holding Charles hostage would simply show he was just a young apprentice whose powers were not strong enough for escape. Not a message of her power.”
“Who the fuck knows,” Erik replied in a grumble. “Why couldn’t I let him go? Why did Shaw want to marry him? Why did you offer him a job? She’ll have our reasons just the same as us…”
I stopped walking abruptly, only just realising that they were talking about me.
Stop talking about me like I’m not here! I shouted into Erik’s mind.
“I’m just warning you Charles. If you go over the boarder in her realm, you’re going to be a prisoner,” Erik explained in his usual brutal manner, trying to make me understand him. I didn’t need his warning, I understood well enough. I’d been sold out, my life was worthless to King Shaw now, and the only one’s who wanted me wanted to use me.
“I’ve been a prisoner all my fucking life Erik. I’m not afraid of loosing freedom that I don’t have. I can’t return to Shaw, you’ve made that clear enough. So I will continue on…” I paused and looked at Moira. “With your permission Your Majesty.”
“Granted Charles,” she said cheerily, clapping her hands together as if I had decided to bake a cake, rather than walk me to my death. “I shall order my mages to open the gates for you. I will be most intrigued to know what will come of this.”
She stood then and looked down on both of us.
“I hope you will stay with me a few days, replenish your supplies. When you are ready, I will send someone to see you across the boarders. Good day gentlemen,” she said before leaving us alone in the cavernous room.
As soon as the door shut Erik was on his feet. But rather than the imposing figure he usually was, he looked at me as if he was tired and weary. His could have been filled with tears if I had more imagination, since they looked so sad and forlorn.
“I do care about you Charles… I care about you so very much,” he said before walking away from me also.
I watched him go with a mixture of fear and dread in my stomach. I knew now that I loved him too, however I tried to pretend otherwise. I just couldn’t help it. He’d had a hold over me from the moment we had met. But still, I couldn’t let him win. I was on my own, at long last, I could chose my own path from the limited number before me. So why then, did I hurt so much?
Chapter 16: Becoming Mine
I decided to re-write this chapter, to make it extra shiny. Hope you'll enjoy!! :D
Now that Queen Moira MacTaggert had decided not to have us murdered, she’d done instead the next best torturous thing, by hosting a feast and a welcome party. I had the sense that we were being ‘honoured’ right now, and that it was very important to these northern people to be seen to show us proper hospitality. However for me, who disliked any kind of attention which placed me centre stage, I found myself wishing the Queen had killed us after all. It would have been quicker. Yet here we were, shoving our existence in everyone’s faces. I seriously doubted that anything good could come of this, but maybe that was the point. If our faces were known, then we couldn’t hide, and my respect for this clever Queen was growing.
Charles, who was insatiably fame hungry was busy working the room. He’d spent most of the evening avoiding me, and following the Queen around, shaking hands with everyone he met. I decided to remain in the shadows and watch. In a strange way, I realised me and Charles made a very effective team. Charles approached our would be enemies with such enthusiasm and innocence that it was a hard hearted soul who could hate him. Still, Charles being so forward allowed me to watch from afar, looking for hidden threats and observing the company as a whole.
But watching Charles dance with a string of beautiful girls was something I couldn’t look at without feeling jealousy. Seeing him smiling at them, his hand on their waist, hurt too much to be ignored. Assured that we were in no immediate danger here in this northern palace, I left the warm and busy room, and escaped into the surrounding grounds. But even here I wasn’t alone, couples walked arm in arm through the gardens, wrapped in heavy cloaks against the evening chill. I watched them bitterly from the cold stone bench I was sitting on, arms folded, hidden in the dark.
All I could think of was Charles’ horrified face when I’d offered to take him under my protection once more. It had not been an empty offer, I had hoped he might see how much I longed for him to be mine. And how much I was prepared to give to keep him safe. But Charles was still too full of hostility for me, and I had not realised just how much he resented me until then. I had stupidly imagined that we had put all of this behind us. But I had been the cause of the pain that burned inside of Charles, and I knew I needed to be the remedy too. Only that was easier said.
I could see it in the way he looked at me, distrustful and always on edge. I’d made him feel as if I’d thrown him away, as if he was worthless. I’d kept his sister to rub salt in that wound. No wonder I couldn’t make him love me now.
“Erik?” I heard a voice ask, faint and hesitant. I turned, surprised.
Charles stood in the pale light of the lamp he was holding, looking ashen faced and somewhat frightened. A complete contrast to the happiness that had been shining from him moments before. I sincerely hoped that he was not afraid of me, that I was not the cause of this change. His eyes flicked to the darts I had instinctively raised from my pocket at his intrusion. Old habits died hard. I lowered them immediately and looked away. I said nothing as he stepped closer, the candle flame flicking with the movement, casting his shadow dancing across the ground. I watched him for a moment from the corner of my eye, and he sat down beside me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. He was cold and shaken, and I could see he was shivering.
Without his cloak he looked so small. I was so used to seeing him wrapped in fur that he looked lonely without it. He looked up at me then, and his blue eyes, which were always so full of fight, were now only filled with shadows and fear.
I’m afraid he whispered into my mind, all gentle and soft, like a summer breeze. I felt a prickling across my skin as I went from relaxed to on-edge, and I turned to take in the whole of him.
“I don’t want to die Erik,” he said at last. The flame shook in time with his shaking hand, illuminating the dark shadows under his eyes. I saw there was shining line down his cheek were a tear had fallen.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” I assured him, reaching to hold his hand. I saw him take in a deep breath to try and calm himself, and I wondered whether he was really frightened for the future, or because he had to face it with me. “I promise you.”
He didn’t say a thing, just set blew the flame out and set it down on the floor beside him. I didn’t dare to breathe. Or move. I couldn’t believe he was even here with me. Surely it had to be a dream, some kind of trick? Was this just going to end like last time, with him screaming at me to get away from him? A cruel joke to play upon my aching heart? But I couldn’t resist him, not when he was so close and so warm beside me.
Tentatively I reached up and brushed my fingers across the soft skin of his face, pushing back the lock of his hair behind his ear. I heard him sigh beneath my touch, and as my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, I could see his face was calm and his eyes were closed. Perhaps he did trust me after all? I’d promised to keep him safe, and he’d believed me.
I continued to trail my fingers down his neck, over his shoulders, over his side tracing him through the thin material of his shirt. He didn’t move, or tell me to stop, and I couldn’t even describe to myself the incredible feeling of being allowed this after so long of being pushed away.
“Erik?” he asked into the space between us.
I hesitated, leaving my hand gently where it was, resting on his back. I knew he was about to tell me to stop, or to say something that would break my heart all over again.
“Did you mean it when you said you would apprentice me?” he asked shocking me into complete stillness. I couldn’t even breathe. I could feel his eyes burning into my face, but I couldn’t bring myself to look into them. I could already feel my heart dieing a little more. I was sure the sting was coming. That he would tell me that the whole idea disgusted him, and he would turn and scratch my heart from my chest, and leave me hard and aching for him in the cold and the dark.
God I tried to tell myself not to respond to his soft skin, and the sound of his breathing, the feel of him pressed beside me. But I couldn’t control the thrill of sensation between my legs, the hardness that was growing ever more difficult to ignore. I wished him to do it quickly. Put me out of my misery and leave. Let me alone to run away and touch myself in the lonely night.
“Yes I meant it Charles,” I said, feeling my heart beat so painfully fast I was sure it would kill me. It skipped a beat as Charles moved even closer to me, his hand on my thigh threatening to press against the hardness of my secret. I wanted to pull back, to hide my shame, but I couldn’t. I wanted him to touch me.
“Then, please do it, before we leave,” he begged me, his voice soft and needing. I felt his hand stroke up my inner seam, looking upon me with that beautifully innocent face.
“Yes,” I whispered, reaching up to touch him once more. I knew this wasn’t a dream anymore, as his hand slipped up my inner thigh, every inch a promise of what was to come. I gasped loudly as he touched me, his deft fingers dipping under the belt of my soft trousers, tickling at the sensitive skin there before taking my cock in his hand.
“Oh God Charles… the people,” I managed to croak out as his fingers moved up and down me, gently stroking me into heaven.
He grinned at me, far too wicked to be allowed.
“Don’t worry, they wont see us,” he assured me, his other hand raised, a finger tapping at his temple. That action told me that he had everything under control. Maybe too much control, as sure enough, the passer-bys didn’t even look our way.
“Do you want to know what Emma taught me?” He asked me sweetly, before leaning across to kiss me. His tongue fought its way into my mouth and I did not fight him, I let him claim me with all my heart.
I didn’t want to think of his touch being given to Emma, or of her’s upon him in return. It should never of happened. But Emma had made him bold, his touch upon me wasn’t shy, and for that alone, and the way he tormented me, I knew I could forgive anything.
I moaned into his kiss, and felt his touch on me grow more insistent and dominant, I still couldn’t believe this was happening. The boy who looked at me with such innocent, was touching me with all the practice of a whore. I didn’t know what his endgame was, but I couldn’t fight it.
I kissed him as if I was starving, and soon had him on his back, pushing him back on the bench and crawling over him. His hands were fumbling at me now, unable to get where he wanted them. I tugged at his clothes, pulling them aside with abandon. I’d dreamt of this for so long, and the danger of our public position made it even more exciting and forbidden. I wanted to see him, his face flushed, his skin pale and perfect below me, covered in moonlight. I wanted to do everything to him, touch him everywhere, I wanted him to scream for me, cling to me. I wanted all of him.
I sparked the candle-lamp back into life, and he suddenly lay still, eyes black with need for me. Seeing the desire I’d given him made me want him all the more. This must have shown on my face because he turned his away.
The candle gave him a strange otherworldly glow and he looked so young to me, and yet in his soul he was not. He wasn’t a child any longer, but he was vulnerable. Dependant upon me to keep him safe, to guide him. He was going to be mine again, no, he was already mine. My apprentice, my everything.
“I don’t blame you Erik… sending me away kept my sister safe…” Charles whispered as I kissed his neck.
I sighed. Trust Charles to have an ulterior motive for his actions. He’d seduced me for the truth.
“That isn’t why I sent you to Emma,” I said, looking at him, wishing he was simply look into my mind and see everything for himself. I knew now that he wouldn’t, he would have done it already, a thousand times by now if he’d wanted to. This was my secret, and I was the one who was going to have to share it.
“I love you Charles, so much, too much…” I confessed, feeling dizzy as the truth broke free at last.
Charles looked up at me like me might. I hated to see him upset, but it felt so good to finally get this out before us. How could we step into the Dark Lands with secrets between us? They would be weapons against us, and would be our undoing.
“No you don’t. I know you don’t,” Charles said looking away.
“If you don’t believe me, why are you here now?” I demanded. I’d thought he’d finally understood. Wasn’t that why he was here? To start again. To be what we were always meant to be? I stared at him and felt that sinking in my heart once more. I braced myself for the pain. He had broken my heart again after all.
“This is payment isn’t it? For my protection. You believe everything comes with a price… this is the price.”
He looked at me then with a kind of broken hope in his eyes. I couldn’t comfort him when I was falling apart too. So I pulled away, leaving him shivering.
“Why are you doing this to me?” I demanded as he struggled away from me.
I watched him pull himself together, then stand. Everything hurt, he’d teased me to a point of complete distraction, until the world had shrunk to only this moment. To only me and Charles. But there had been no release. My cock strained painfully against the material of my trousers, and reminded me with every aching throb of Charles’ soft touch. It told me, over and over, to do anything to have that touch return.
But being this aroused had heightened my temper, and if I couldn’t come, I could do the next best thing, and fight. I was so riled, and having to look at Charles standing there looking half ravished was making me crazed.
“All I ever did was love you. If you can’t forgive me for being stupid, and for sending you away, then just say it. Stop playing games with me!” I yelled, wishing he might turn back to me, and…
Charles screwed his face up in such rage at this that I was afraid he was going to do something stupid, like send the castle tumbling down. I braced myself, but all that hit me was his words.
“You stole my heart Erik! I bet you didn’t even know that. I bet you don’t even care! You made it impossible for me to love anyone but you. I can’t be bonded to anyone else, because of what you did! You looked into my soul, tainted me, and spat me out. Why would I forgive you for throwing me away like that!”
No, I couldn’t believe him. I hadn’t done anything of the sort. I’d loved him yes, but I had not touched his soul. No, that was the stuff of fairy stories. Of magical bonds that wouldn’t break. Of fabled true love, which tied a soul to another, and nothing could shake it apart. Of agonising pain when separated. Of…
I thought of the sudden illness I had been struck with on the day of Charles’ departure from me. Of how weak I had been for months after. How I had spent all my nights fighting tears I didn’t know the reason for. Could it be true? We were the fated bonded souls of legend. The mages who made only one complete soul when together. Destined for power only a few could ever dream of?
But if this was true, then Charles had this wrong. I had not touched his soul, we’d been joined together since our souls had sparked into being. Bonded before we had even met. Charles was staring at me like a dark ghost, with the lamps fire raging behind him. When I looked into his face, I knew that it was true.
“You’re right,” I said walking towards him. I tried to reach out to him, but he hit me, hard across my arm. I winced and reached for him again. He did the same to my other side, until I was over powering him, and he couldn’t fight me any more. “You’re right,” I repeated, not knowing what else to say. “We were always meant to be together.”
“No, you did this to me!” he screamed, his words taking me back two years, when he had been all mine. Mine for the taking, the moulding. I’d forced him to become this tantalising tease, who plagued me with promises and danced just out of my reach.
“Charles, you’re mine, you always have been, I wont give you up ever again,” I told him, not knowing where this possessiveness was coming from. It felt as if it was deep inside me. As if it had always been there, waiting for Charles to unlock the gate.
It flooded through me now, and I knew, that if Charles were to allow himself to feel the same, we would be the love story told through the ages. But Charles wouldn’t give in, no matter how my heart raged at his. Now that I knew, I wouldn’t let him go. I understood now, the terror of the intensity of my feelings those years ago. Why I had fled from them, cast them aside. I knew now why Emma wouldn’t take him for a bond mate, why Charles couldn’t say yes to Shaw. I was because he knew he belonged to me. His soul and his heart knew it, and all I needed to do was wait for his stubbornness to burn itself out. I’d make him want me to. He belonged to me. Mine, my heart sang. Mine. Mine.
But he already did want me. As I fought his attacks now, I could feel how excited he was. I wanted to touch him, hold him beneath me again.
“Kiss me Charles!” I demanded, making him face me. I pressed my lips against his, but when he opened his mouth he brought his teeth down on my bottom lip. I grimace, but he wouldn’t let go, pain shooting through me, but only ending in one place, as a heavy throb between my legs.
He had started something here tonight, and I wouldn’t let him run away from me now. As he let me go, I felt him stop pulling away. He must have sensed what I was doing, healing bite he’d made, and without warning his lips returned my kiss. Leaning into me and melting with such tenderness that it almost blew my mind. How could he be so changeable? But instead of pulling back, my greedy heart demanded more. I kissed down his neck, across his chest, feeling his hands tangle in my hair. When I looked down at him, he looked like he was falling as sleep in my arms. There was a calmness about his face now, as if he’d made peace with himself.
I didn’t believe for one moment that this was the end of this fight. Charles wouldn’t forgive me so easily, and neither was he prepared to acknowledge that I hadn’t bewitched his soul into being mine. That he’d been just as guilty in this as me. But right now, he knew he needed me, wanted this comfort from me, his arms wrapped around me. We had reached a kind of accord for the moment, an impasse.
With great care I carried him back through the castle to our rooms. He watched me with eyes half open, dozing in the safety of my arms. When we neared our destination, he asked me:
“Can I stay with you tonight?”
I felt my heart leap within me, pounding in simple need for him once more.
“I wish that you would,” I dared to whisper towards the vision in my arms. I set him down gently on his feet, and opened the door to my room.
He waited for a moment before walking through. Then he looked back at me.
“You mustn’t touch me,” he stipulated.
Charles was a challenge, but he was mine. Woe betide anyone who wanted to take him from me now.
Chapter 17: Into the Void
Hold on to your hats everyone because I'm going to throw you another loop. But first... enjoy the Cherik!! Yaaaaay :)
When I woke I felt like smiling, my heart seemed light and free from the fears that had been following me like a shadow. But as my dreams started to fade, and my memories of the night before returned to me, I started to feel weighed down once more. I remembered Erik, and his demand for a kiss. I blushed at the thought of touching him, marvelling at my own daring to tease him so. The smile I had awoken with returned, and I turned my face into my pillow to hide it.
I could hear movement around the room, footsteps and the clinking of what sounded like a cup being set down. I rolled over to see Erik sat by the window, looking over at me much at his leisure. I let him see my smile, I had no reason to hide this rare moment of happiness I was feeling, and it was nice to see him so relaxed in return.
“You sleep like the dead,” Erik said, before he took a bite of the apple he was holding. I watched him eat, lazily smoothing my cheek against the softness of my pillow. “Even the maids lighting the fire and bringing our breakfast didn’t wake you. Didn’t Emma teach you to be alert for assassins?”
I continued to smile at him, stretching my arms up above my head, and knowing that he was watching me with great longing. It had been cruel of me to insist he not touch me, to lie next to him, and taunt him with my presence. But after so long believing that he cared nothing for me, I needed to be sure. But his eyes told me now that I needn’t of worried I’d be hurt. Last night Erik had shown me how much he cared for me, by simply protecting me in the dark. No questions asked, no demands.
“I knew I was safe with you,” I replied. Seeing Erik smile, for once warmed my heart. But right now I felt weak and shaky, as if I had been lying in bed for days. This unexpected moment of rest seemed to have drained me of all my nervous energy, and I really didn’t know I was going to be able to keep going.
But I had little choice. Staying here would only put these people in danger, and that wasn’t something I could live with. I needed to keep going, until I made it through the void and into the Dark Lands. Come what may, I’d meet whatever faced me there, knowing that it was my fate to do so.
But there was something that still needed to be done before we could even think about walking into the unknown. Erik was going to apprentice me, and it seemed to hang in the air between us waiting to be mentioned. I wondered what this would entail, and what Erik would demand of me once I’d sworn myself to him. In effect, he could whatever he liked to me, and I supposed it was a clear sign of my trust in him that I would allow him that power.
But I needed him. For all I wished I could remain free forever, in control over my own life for once, I knew it refusing Erik’s offer would be reckless. My powers were still green, they needed honing, and I needed guidance. My own actions had led me to this place, into danger and uncertainty. Above all else I needed someone who was going to keep me under control, curb my impulsive nature, and deflect the repercussions from falling down on me. Emma had done her best, but I’d never paid her much heed. Erik on the other hand, I knew, would not put up with half as much.
Then of course, there was the bond we already shared. The one that seemed completely out of both of our controls. I was starting to realise that perhaps Erik had been as much its slave as I had been, pulled towards me without a choice. For surely, had been in control of it, he would have broken it long ago. I’d given him so much pain, and caused so much trouble, that it did not seem reasonable that he’d continue to pursue me through it all, had he the choice. The thought made me less hostile to him, and more inclined to forgive his past mistake with me.
We’d both been clueless and lost, and it no longer seemed right to place all of the blame for those confusing days at Erik’s door. I was equally guilty for making life difficult, and was the main cause of all my personal sufferings. Erik had been proposing peace for both our souls for a while now, and all I’d been doing in return is snarling at his offer to love me. I was ungrateful, selfish and wild, but still, Erik saw the potential in me still.
“You are thinking a lot this morning,” Erik said as he still watched me. “I hope you have not changed your mind.”
“Never,” I whispered.
I could see that Erik had no idea what to do with me when I was so compliant. He seemed to look at me with great interest, and also, apprehension as if I was set to tricking him again. I couldn’t blame him there; I’d spend long enough bending him to my childish will, knowing just the right moment to submit and when to fight. But I was tired of fighting him now. We both had bigger enemies to contend with, and I was no longer afraid of what might happen between us, and where it might take me. Something much more frightening was looming on the horizon, and with every moment it came closer. I needed Erik, and I’d do whatever he needed of me to keep him.
He walked towards me now; I felt the edge of the bed dip as he lay beside me again. My heart did its favourite little dance in my chest, fluttering wildly whenever he came near me like this. Only this time, there was none of the warning that usually came with these racing beats. Nothing was screaming danger for me now. This time, all I could think of was how much I desperately wanted him to touch me. How his kiss might be the only thing in the world to save me.
“I’m going to apprentice you today,” Erik told me. I could feel him leaning over me, although I had closed my eyes. I knew he would kiss me, I knew also that I was leaning towards him, silently begging him to touch me.
“Yes, I know,” I whispered. I felt for his arms, feeling him just where I’d expected to find him, directly over me.
Suddenly I felt him shift, and then the blankets covering me were ripped away from where they kept us apart. Gasping, I looked up to find Erik mere inches away from me. He grinned at me before ducking down and biting playfully at my neck. I heard myself yelp in surprise, jumping under his touch, all my muscles tensing. Erik’s tongue teased all the way down to my collarbone, leaving me breathless.
His touch made me feel so good, it left me tingling all over, and shaking. Being trapped between his thighs felt like the most erotic moment of my whole life, which was crazy, but Erik was making me crazy. My hands ghosted up the hard muscles in his arms, across his shoulders and up to tangle in his hair. Erik’s kiss on my neck was making me squirm, and I didn’t know how he’d discovered that I loved this. I had no doubt that if Erik kept doing what he was doing, he could make my come just by his kiss alone.
I tried to kiss him back, turning my head to try capturing any part of him, but he held me off. Was this my punishment now? If it was, I couldn’t think if a better one. Being pinned and driven crazy, without any means of returning the out of control feeling was making me dizzy with desire. I wanted more. I wanted to kiss Erik too. To taste his skin in return. I wanted to hear him gasp under my touch, just like he had last night.
Now Erik’s hand was running down my chest, lifting the shirt I’d insisted on keeping on last night. He lowered his attentions, kissing slowly down my chest, his hands running down my sides, his fingernails dragging across my skin. I threw my head back and let myself shiver, lost in every sweep of his tongue. Every now and then he grinned up at me, as he moved lower and lower, his hands running across my hips, fingers gently undoing the string-leather fastening of my soft trousers.
I couldn’t speak, I could hardly think. I was completely at Erik’s mercy, tamed at last by his owning handle on me. But all the while, as he moved to take me in his mouth, all I could think of, was how right this felt. As if I should have been here from the moment I’d become a man, we belonged together, as he touched me, I felt as something deep within me was reaching towards him, merging with him, becoming him. For a moment, as I dissolved into a dream, we could have been one person. I’d never felt so whole, or complete.
I could hear myself crying out as Erik’s tongue swirled over the end of my hard length, merciless, only I knew he wasn’t going to leave me painful and aching, prevented from the sweet release that I’d denied him last night. I rolled my hips, away from him, closer to him, unable to decide what I wanted. His tongue was tugging me into oblivion, but I was suddenly afraid of it, the loss of control felt more real and more intense than anything I’d ever been brought to feel before. And then Erik was pinning me down, his fingers digging painfully into my hips. I twitched, my body clenching, and then my vision turned white, and I was floating away.
When I came back to myself, Erik was leaning over me again with that confident grin on his face. He’d won a victory over me at last, and for once, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to fight.
“When you’re mine, I’m going to do that every day,” Erik assured me. My eyes widened. Erik sure knew how to make a deal. “Come on, get dressed, I’ll meet you outside.”
I washed and dressed with haste, taking full advantage of the fresh clothes Queen Moira had given me. They were more roughly spun than the expensive clothes I was used to wearing in the south. Even the clothes I’d been travelling in had been so obviously expensive that they’d been, in hindsight, a poor disguise. A few moments after I’d finished dressing, I heard someone knock on the door. A sweep of my powers out towards their mind told me that they were a mage like myself, an apprentice, young, and not a threat to me. However I still palmed my knife was I opened the door, without Erik here, I was more cautious.
“Yes?” I asked the young man on the other side. He didn’t appear to be threatened by me at all, which I was rather unused to, even when I meant no harm, people gave me a wide berth. “Can I help you?”
“My name is Sean, I am Queen Moira’s… friend…” he said with a cheeky grin, telling me that they were far more than just friends, a fact he seemed mightily proud of. It also seemed highly inappropriate, and I wasn’t particularly sure that I cared to know this. But regardless, knowledge was power, and he was giving it away freely. “I’m going to show you the way through to the Dark Lands.”
“You’re coming with us?” I asked him, surprised. There had been no talk of providing us with a guide, or an escort. Queen Moira had looked on our mission like committing suicide, and I wasn’t sure what to make of adding someone else into the fold meant. Perhaps she didn’t expect us to be immediately killed on sight after all.
“Do you mind?” he asked me, looking a little uncertain now. His face was so young that it was hard to believe we could be the same age. Maybe life up here wasn’t as fraught with stress and danger was it was in the south. I knew for a fact, that my heart wasn’t nearly as light as his.
“I don’t mind…” I told him, picking my words carefully. I couldn’t afford to offending him, or offend his Queen. I’d done enough of that already. “But it be dangerous, and I seem to attract trouble.”
He laughed as if that was all a fine joke, and stood back from the door, waiting for me to leave the room. I looked back behind me, Erik’s black fur cloak was still draped over a chair, and my sword was lying next to it. I retrieved them both, and bid farewell to all that we’d left behind here. Then I followed the red-haired young man down the hall.
“Your scary war-mage friend is waiting for you in the sunroom,” Sean said as we walked. “I’ll show you the way.”
Being apprenticed to Erik meant that the I would be out of the commanding reach of the Fae Queen. As a run away from King Shaw’s court, I could not count upon his protection over me as a subject, nor could Queen Moira intervene since I had refused her any loyalty. The only person I could swear to with any honesty was Erik, and so it would only be Erik, who could demand anything from me. An attack on me would be an attack on Erik, and since Erik was King Shaw’s emissary, and attack on Erik would be a call to war for the Fae and the South. I sincerely hoped that was not what the Fae Queen wanted, although she’d made her threats already. So I knew we were effectively playing in her hands, but regardless, I supposed a war was coming whatever I did, and it made little sense to fight it.
Sean led me to a room made of glass, filled with plants, the air heavy with moisture evaporating from all the leaves. Erik was waiting for me, sitting on a wooden bench under a leaning tree. Next to him an older man was waiting with him, I knew he wanted me to swear more words of loyalty and sign another scroll to the same effect. Only this time, I knew this was an apprenticeship I wouldn’t be escaping from.
I did as I was told, and when it was over, I looked at Erik and expected to feel just the same, but this time, I knew something had changed. All of this felt so right that it left me feeling a little breathless. Unlike with Emma, that I had strived so hard to make happy, I could feel I didn’t even need to try with Erik. He looked at me like I was the only thing that mattered in the whole world, and I couldn’t help but smile at him in return.
Maybe this was happiness after all?
Sean led us out of the city and into the wilderness that surrounded it. We rode for an hour in silence until we saw a group of gruff and unfriendly looking people waiting for us as the road began to turn into a less well-travelled track. They looked at Erik and me with narrowed eyes, as if they didn’t understand why their Queen would allow us through. But whatever their thoughts, they keep their mouths shut. To tell the truth, I did know how we had managed to win their Queen over either. Suddenly I felt afraid, more so than I had the entire journey here, more afraid than I had been in the arena facing Raven. My heart doubled its pace, and my breathing became difficult to keep up with. I slowed my horse and felt for Erik’s mind.
I don’t like this Erik… It doesn’t feel right. I told him. I couldn’t turn back or even stop without it being suspicious, all we could do was keep moving forward. Suddenly even the cheerfulness of Sean seemed false; I wondered how I’d managed to be taken in by it before. He was tense too, sitting straight-backed on his horse. He looked at me with nervousness in his eyes, and seemed to be begging me silently to keep following.
What’s wrong? What are these guards thinking? Erik asked me. His face held no trace that he was alarmed, but I knew I could not say the same for me. I was fretting, my eyes scared. My grip on the reigns of my horse was tight, and I was tugging the bit in Spook’s mouth, alarming him too.
I don’t know, they’re blocking me, I’d have to dig deeper, and they’d know I was doing it… I confessed. With so many minds shielded against me, breaking past their defences couldn’t be done with stealth. It was the fact that they expected me to try, and were acutely alert for my attack, that had set me on edge in the first place.
This is the only way across the Void Charles, Erik reminded me. Are we in danger?
I don’t know. They do not mean us harm, but something isn’t right. Be alert. Telling Erik to be alert for danger was a redundant warning, but I made me feel better. Erik was always ready to kill whatever moved too quick, or too slow, or at the right pace. I’d have been better off giving myself the warning.
As my apprentice, I command you to kill who ever you feel is a threat, understood? Erik demanded. The order filled me with dread, but I felt myself bow under it. The weight of his words over me almost pinned me to the spot. Emma had never exercised her right over me like this, and the sensation of being unable to refuse, was strange.
Yes Master, I replied dutifully. I knew I’d sent a thrill of something through Erik by uttering the word master, but this wasn’t the time to play games. We were on the cusp of death once more, and I had my blade in my hand.
“No weapons,” a guard shouted at me as we approached.
“Unless you want that sword in your throat, you won’t touch him,” Erik growled at the man who had dared order me.
I felt my heart skip at beat as I looked at Erik now. He hadn’t even hesitated to step in-between me and this threat, and I felt a flush of shame as I realised this dangerous situation and Erik’s protectiveness was making me much too excited.
“The treaty between the North and the Fae is no armed man shall cross the Void,” the guard replied, standing his ground.
“Well we are not of the North, therefore your treaty will not be broken” Erik informed him. The guard looked to another for his opinion, but his fellows were silent. When he spoke again, he addressed Sean.
“You will be accountable for their actions beyond this line,” he barked at the red-headed young man. Sean nodded almost casually, and then turned to face Erik.
I knew that every single guard was a mage like I was. I wondered how so many could be gathered together up here in the North, when the South was devoid of them. Then again, had I known this place had existed, I might have run away to join them too. Maybe that was what all these men had done.
“Ready?” Sean asked.
Erik nodded once and the mages turned to face the emptiness before us. Just like when Erik had pulled us into the lay-lines, they were reaching into the air looking for a weak-spot in the nothingness around us. With all of them searching, it still felt like forever before they found something, pulling it apart like stretching a bubble. It reflected a rainbow of colours as the world stretched apart, tearing into the darkness beyond, and then suddenly, there was a door into another world. I stared at the mages completely amazed at their power, and then followed Sean as he led the way forward. Erik followed closely behind me, one eye on the mages as they continued to concentrate on the new rip through the Void.
I could feel Erik with me, like a magnetic pull that kept me near to him. I found I liked it. I wanted to reach back and touch him, check he was still there, but as I crossed over the border into this other land, I could see that my fears hand not been unfounded. Something was wrong. It was tearing at the hold Erik had on me, like little pins stabbing into my heart.
My pull towards him was weakening, and my head was spinning. The pain in my chest threatened to blind me, and as the door closed behind me, I knew I was trapped on this side without him. I couldn’t breathe; my hands flew to my throat as I choked. Bile rising from my stomach, coating my mouth was acid.
“Erik!” I screamed, turning in my saddle to frantically look for him, but all that was behind me was open fields. My vision threatened with black for a moment as I continued to gasp.
There was no air in this place. I was suffocating. I was going to die. Panicking I looked around me blindly, only half aware that there were people standing around me, their hands on my horse to steady him. One man was trying to calm me down, but I wouldn’t listen to him. I couldn’t. I had to find Erik. Where was he? Terrified I fought as someone tried to drag me from my horse.
“No! No!” I shouted, gasping. The man pulled me from my saddle and pressed something over my nose, covering my mouth, making me scream. But I made no sound, and suddenly as the strange feeling over my face began to fade away, I could breathe again.
But still I fought, kicking whatever I could reach, my hands scratching and grasping at whatever came their way. I couldn’t see a thing; all I could feel were these strong tight arms around my chest, dragging me down.
“Stop fighting me Charles Xavier, I’m not going to hurt you,” the man holding me said.
I didn’t for one moment believe him, but stopped lashing out all the same. He was so strong, inhumanly so, I’d never break his hold over me. Better to live to fight another day. True to his word, as soon as I stopped struggling and stood still, the man let me go. I took a good look at him now, his was taller than me, older than Erik maybe, his arms were huge, his chest rock solid. But what struck me was his hair, dark and stuck up like two pointed ears. He looked like a wild animal, with the most outlandish facial hair I’d ever seen.
I caught Sean looking at me sheepishly, and I stared him down. I was not about to be intimidated by these people. I’d been through far worse to let this best me. Because Erik had said I had to kill… someone…. Someone had said to kill…. Kill…. Someone.
I shook my head. Everything was fuzzy, and strange. I was scared, but I couldn’t remember why. Why was I scared? No one was hurting me. Had I fallen off my horse?
“I’m so sorry Charles,” the red-haired man said dropping his gaze. “It was the only way.”
“Who are you?” I demanded of him.
I looked around at the hundreds of people who had seemingly just been standing around waiting for me, or watching me, or something. I didn’t recognise a single person. Nor did I recall a thing about this bright and sunny place, or ever how I had happened to be here. But the most frightening thing of all, was no knowing my own name. Who was I? Why was I here? To my alarm and astonishment, the people who had gathered around me now fell to their knees in reverence. I looked around to see who they were honouring, but there was none standing now but me.
I stared at them beseechingly, but not a single one looked up, apart from the man who had begged me to be calm, who lifted his head to speak.
“Welcome to the Fae Kingdom Your Majesty,” he said, prostrate before me. “My name is Logan Howlett, I will escort you to the Queen.”
The Queen. I’d met a Queen. I knew I had. Somewhere. I remembered a Queen, with dark hair… I couldn’t remember her face. I felt panicked. I couldn’t meet a Queen, especially not one I couldn’t even remember. And I was royal too? No, there had to be some kind of mistake. I didn’t feel very royal… I didn’t feel very much, apart from this constant pain in my heart. Stabbing, over and over.
“I don’t feel well,” I told the man named Logan, and was only half aware of him catching me in his arms before I hit the floor.
I awoke to someone tenderly dabbing a cold cloth to my face and whispering sweet things over me. The voice was soothing, loving, and strangely familiar. It was hard to feel frightened when someone was touching you so carefully, as if you might break, and I felt myself relax. Blearily I opened my eyes and looked up at the fuzzy shape above me. My new friend was a young woman, with lightly tanned skin and large dark captivating eyes. I stared at her as she smiled at me, and I tried to remember who I was once more. But nothing returned to me, and everything inside me felt empty.
“Oh, my King,” she whispered with tenderness, leaning close to me and kissing my lips softly. I remained perfectly still, not responding at all to her. “I thought you’d never find me.”
“Where am I?” I asked, looking past her and gazing around the large opulently decorated room. Everything was so bright, and colourful, and the air smelled sweet like summer flowers. “I can’t remember anything,” I confessed, struggling to sit up.
Warm summer air from the open window brushed over me as she moved back to give me room. The breeze was blowing the white gossamer curtains into the room, like flags of surrender, and all I could think of, was how this girl’s skin was so pretty and smooth. And how kind she was, looking after me like this. How lovely her voice sounded as she whispered in my ear. But still… my heart felt nothing for her.
“Don’t worry Charles,” she said stroking my face affectionately. “The healers say your memories will soon return, and you will be yourself again. But in the meantime, let me look after you.”
I turned my face away. I felt like crying. I didn’t know what had happened, or why I felt so torn apart inside. I felt like there was something missing inside of me. I sighed, lay back down and rolled over onto my side. I closed my eyes and started to pray, for anything to save me from this void of nothingness. As I lay there, fighting my tears, I felt her climb onto the bed behind me, and hold me close. I tried my hardest to remember what had brought me here, but it was just a dark and empty space.
I must have slept again, because when I woke, the girl was gone and I was all alone. Sitting up, I had the feeling that someone had taken my clothes and dressed me in something foreign. But how could I know this? I was in a dark silk robe, tied at the waist by a woven golden thread. I felt wrong, but I couldn’t explain the feeling to myself. Before me was a wardrobe, filled with clothes, and I searched inside until I found something that called to me. A white shirt, dark grey trousers, I found the boots I had been wearing earlier and pulled those on too. When I was finished, I looked at myself in the long mirror. I looked like a pale grey shadow, a stark and dramatic contrast to the peacock feather room.
I found guards at my door when I opened it, with hesitation I stepped out between them. But instead of apprehending me like I had expected, they stood to attention as soon as they saw me. There had been a black cloak at the end of my bed, trimmed with fur. I’d taken it with me, despite it being sunny and warm. I just felt like I needed it, like it made me safe somehow, and out of everything in that room, it had been the only thing not to feel strange in my hands.
But, it was a hard walk down the hall, not recognising anything I saw. As beautiful as this place might be, before long I was lost.
It scared me that everywhere I looked, people bowed to me and called me ‘Your Majesty’. It made me want to hide, making me feel odd and uncomfortable. I didn’t understand who I was supposed to be. The dark haired girl had called me her King, and all I wanted was to know was what was going on.
“Hello?” I asked, walking into the walled garden. I could see someone was sitting behind a row of grapevines. As I neared, I saw it was my kind girl from before.
“Charles,” she greeted cheerfully, smiling at me with such adoration that I felt bad for not returning it. “Come, sit by me. I’ve been waiting for you forever.”
She was wearing very little I noticed, unlike me with the fur cloak around my shoulders. Her light pink dress was held around her shoulders by thin gold chains and across her upper back and arms was a black tattoo. I reached up to touch it, somehow from her attentions to me before, as if had the right to be near her, and she leant into my touch.
“I’m so sorry… I don’t remember you,” I said, feeling truly terrible. I could see in her eyes she had been hoping for something more from me, and I had hurt her. But I was the one drowning here, and I couldn’t understand why I was in so much pain.
She sighed, smiled at me, and then touched my face. Her hand cupping my cheek as she looked into my eyes. No, maybe I did know her… in my mind I saw her standing in a field, her arms reaching out to me.
“I am the Queen of the Fae people. I am Angel. And you Charles, are my King,” she explained, as gently as if she were speaking to a confused child. Her fingers pushed my hair back from my face as she looked at me. “We rule the Fae kingdom together, and we will invade the other realm when the time right. When you are mine again, when you remember.”
I found I couldn’t reply. What could I say? This idea was terrifying, but I couldn’t hurt her again by telling her this. So I simply looked away.
"You will remember me Charles… I promise,” she assured me. “Listen to my voice, you’ll remember.”
I was listening and I did remember her voice. I just couldn’t believe what she telling me I was. I was no King. I couldn’t be. I’d never wanted to be a King; I’d grown up in a forest. In a forest… in a tower of cold stone… I sat frozen. I recalled, a brief flash of a house and a little girl with blonde hair, running before me through the trees. It meant very little in the scheme of things, but to me right now, it was like a hand reaching towards me in the mist. I kept the revelation to myself.
“Don’t look so worried my sweetheart, I told you, there is nothing to fear.”
I almost believed her, but I was looking at a stranger. For all her voice was familiar, I felt nothing but completely alone. All I had for my own was the aching that kept clenching over my heart.
Chapter 18: A War Begins
The war that has been threatening is beginning, and choosing a side has never been more difficult.
Super big thank you to those still following this! Erm, I'm setting up for some more bloodshed and stabbing again... oh heck.
I fell backwards, hitting the ground hard and losing my breath. It left me momentarily stunned, but couldn’t quell the force of my soul chanting, Charles, Charles, Charles, find Charles. I’d been knocked from my horse by the force of being expelled from the Void, and my horse had disappeared beyond my grasp, along with Sean and Charles. With my head spinning, I pushed myself to my feet, pulling my blade from its sheath and taking a fighting stance. It was an automatic reaction, one I knew I might soon regret, being once again surrounded by strange Northern mages. But I didn’t know what had happened, and all I could do was what I did best, and that was fight.
The sudden loss of Charles was like a knife to my gut, winding me, leaving me feeling faint and shaky. But the grip of my dagger blade felt comfortingly familiar, and realised I had been threatening those around me much longer than I had been aware of.
“Where’s Charles?” I shouted, pointing my blade at one of the mages who’d dared a step towards me. He backed off immediately, his hands up in surrender.
I felt like killing them all, rage burning inside me, churning over and over. They’d tricked me, stolen Charles from me. Because there could be no doubt that Charles was now trapped in the fae realm, lost in the unknown. For a moment all I’d felt was blind panic, knowing that he was in the hands of our enemies. I had no idea how I was going to get him back, and it had been a long time since I had been this afraid.
“Open the Void!” I demanded, advancing towards a mage at random. This time, the mage didn’t back off; instead he stood his ground, his fellows drawing their weapons in response to mine. “Open it now!”
“We have our orders,” the mage replied calmly. “Best you go home now Erik Lehnsherr.”
The mage’s cocky grin tipped me over the edge of my control. Unleashing my metal darts to fly at them, I felt them strike home, digging into flesh and hitting bone. The surprised yells and grunts of pain lasted only a moment, about the same amount of time as my advantage, before they were on me.
I’d never fought more than one mage at a time before, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity back in the South for such practice, and King Shaw played hard and fast with the mages he did own. Their lives, although rare, were still worthless to Shaw. Only Emma and me seemed to have lasted the test of time, clinging to the lives we had fashioned there.
I realised suddenly that my little trip into memory lane had cost me dearly, and as a fist connected with my face, and a boot landed heavily against my leg, I fell pray to a telepath’s powers. One of them was tugging at my mind, trying to get me to lose my concentration. He’d latched on to the image of Emma, and was circling her repeatedly in my distracted mind. I shook him out roughly. He was like a buzzing fly, quickly swatted. His powers barely held a candle to what Charles or Emma could do, and ignoring him was easy. But it was not so easy to ignore the rain of blows that were getting past my defences.
Staggering backwards I felt blood dripping down my face, and trickling down my leg. My ribs hurt from where I’d caught the edge of a blade, and I knew, that I was not going to last much longer. I was magically stronger, but they were too many. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the butt of a blade coming down to strike at me, and then, nothing.
When I woke later, it was with an overwhelming feeling of surprise. I had not expected to survive, but clearly, they had meant for me to, since there was no doubt that they could have killed me anytime. Instead they’d injured me enough to warrant my retreat, but had done no lasting damage. I’d heal, and I would be back, and they undoubtedly knew this. So what was their game? Wincing, I stood with great effort, fighting the pain that threatened to knock me back into unconsciousness, and staggered sideways. There was only one place for me to go right now, and that was indeed home.
With great regret I walked away from the high imposing walls that surrounded this northern city, and headed back out into the countryside. The journey seemed to take me forever, and every step was agony. But I had to keep going. I’d lost everything here but I wasn’t about to be defeated just yet. The thought of Charles gave me strength, and I threw myself into the closest layline with the last my flagging powers.
I hit the ground near the Army road; safely back down south enough to stop running. As I crawled into a hedgerow off the path, fighting the darkness that threatened me once more, I sent a thought outwards to the only person who could help me now. Emma Frost.
Please help me, Charles in danger.
Emma and Raven must have set out to find me immediately, because I awoke what felt like seconds later in the bedroom of an isolated country inn. As I looked around blearily, I could make out the rough beams overhead, the sound of people drinking and laughing in the room below us, and Raven’s voice, close to me.
“Oh shit,” Raven exclaimed looking over my injuries, pulling at my clothes, and revealing my wounds. I felt her start to heal me right away, running her hands over my broken skin. “What happened to you?”
“Raven he’s still alive,” Emma informed her apprentice in a admonishing voice, unimpressed by Raven’s panic. But still, she joined her, running her hands over me also. Usually I might have found this rather amusing, but I was too worried about Charles to make a joke.
Emma was clearly thinking the same. I knew the worry lines on her face had not been caused by me.
“Where the hell is Charles?” she hissed at me, as she snapped my broken rib back into place. I grimaced, but held still. This pain wasn’t nearly as bad as the pain of being without Charles.
“In the Fae realm,” I managed to choke out.
“What?” Raven exclaimed sitting back on her heels. She looked exhausted from the power she had been using on me, but ever the determined young woman, she continued to push herself. I wanted to tell her not to wear herself out, but couldn’t even find the energy for that.
“He’s alive?” Emma demanded, not stopping in her work to look up at me.
“As far as I know,” I replied. She frowned and shook her head.
“No, you would know if he was hurt. Or worse. You’d feel it,” she said, and then she stopped, afraid to say any more.
“You’re right,” I agreed leaning back against the cushions of the chair. “I would know.”
Raven looked completely distraught, but Emma was her usual cool self, working efficiently. When she had done all she could, she ordered me to sleep. I had no trouble following her orders, and when I woke some hours later Raven was asleep next to me, and Emma was staring into the fire.
“I don’t know what to do Erik,” she said quietly once she knew I was watching her. Her face was filled with sadness, the most emotion I’d ever seen from her. “We can’t get in the fae realm without the MacTaggert’s help, and even if they agreed to open the gate, which they wont, I’m not even sure I want to go in.”
“But…” I protested, and then stopped as my sluggish mind struggled to find the words. I knew she was making a valid point, only I couldn’t see it. I needed Charles, and I wouldn’t let him go so easily. There had to be a way to get him back. I gave up trying to speak, and just sent what I felt out towards her instead.
“I know,” she snapped at me. “You think I don’t care? God only knows what they want from him, or what deal has been struck between that bitch Queen Moira and the fae Queen...”
“Our only chance is to offer then something they can’t resist,” Emma said at length. “Or discover what it is they want, and ensure it happens. Then, there will be no need to use Charles as leverage.”
I sat in silence and simply watched her in stupefied awe.
So think Erik. She told at me. What does Queen Moira want?
“What all rulers want,” I replied without even having to think it through. “More power.”
“Yes. And the fae are planning an attack on our lands, or so the rumours say. Who better to help them than a mage from the South? So…” she paused in her speech as she began walking up and down the small room. I pushed myself up against the pillows, waiting for her thoughts to make themselves clear.
“The fae Queen asks Shaw to send Charles into the fae realm, to hear her terms... a ruse, of course. Shaw would never have agreed, but rumours spread. Queen Moira must have counted her blessings when you and Charles arrived in the North. In her hands she had the one thing the fae Queen wanted, and she delivered Charles over for an advantage of her own…” Emma concluded.
I watched her walk, the familiar confident sway of her slender hips, and her regal face hard with concentration. I admired the way that she thought, sorting through the mess of life to see the reasons behind it all.
“Moira sold Charles to the fae,” I reiterated, Emma’s words filtering through me and coming to rest with a hard realisation that she was right.
“Yes,” she replied still pacing. “Moira protects those boarders, it is all that keeps us humans safe. She wouldn’t just let you pass through, just because your King commanded it. She must have made a bargain… only, I don’t know… perhaps she sold Charles out for the lives of her people, we ought to give her the benefit of the doubt.”
“I don’t see why,” I replied. Only if that was true, it made it slightly harder to hate her. One life in exchange for many, it was the age-old honour sacrifice.
Raven stirred next to me, and sat up groggily. The way she looked at me as if I had all the secrets of the universe was difficult to acknowledge. I so regretted having to disappoint her.
“So, Emma, what do we do?” I asked. I felt Raven’s rapt attention beside me, hanging on to every word.
“We must go into the North, and make them a better deal. That is our only option. But this is not going to be easy. It will take time. First, we will have to push the wheels of war into motion, and stoke Shaw’s fire,” she said coming to a stop before me. “Do you have it in you to be a traitor Erik?”
I didn’t even need to consider it.
“My loyalty is to Charles. The rest of the world can burn,” I answered her with fire once again in my heart. I didn’t care what happened now, I didn’t care whose banner I raised, or what battle cry I shouted. All I cared about was Charles, and I would die to free him if that was what it took.
“You might have to,” Emma said returning to her chair, and staring back into the fire.
“What’s the City like?” I asked as we neared the gates. I didn’t need to elaborate; Emma knew exactly what I was eluding to.
“Shaw was livid when he realised Charles was missing. Everyone knows that he’s supposed to become Shaw’s consort now, and it was assumed he’d been captured and stolen. By the fae of course, there’s not a lot of imagination in this City. Nothing was suspected at all about him leaving with you, but Shaw’s had his guards out looking all the same,” Emma explained, looking around fearfully as we rode into the city.
I was sitting behind Emma, trying to look as beaten up and bloody as I could. Not particularly hard since Emma and Raven had left all the superficial wounds to bleed freely.
We’d rehearsed our lines; we had this down to the very last detail. I knew deep down that what we were doing wasn’t right, that one day we would be punished for this. But we were war-mages, not peace keepers, our souls were filled with violence and blood. Besides… this war that we were about to set into motion, had been a long time in coming.
Emma rode right up the steps, through the huge ornate doors and into the great hall. King Shaw was seated on his throne, spouting out his usual bullshit to anyone who cared enough to listen, and to those too afraid not to. As soon as he spotted us, the room turned deathly silent. I slid to the ground, blood speckling the floor as I moved into a bow before him.
“Lehnsherr,” he greeted me.
“Your Grace, I bring you news…” I said, not lifting my eyes to his face, showing him the most respect I could stomach.
“Speak,” he ordered.
“I was attacked in the North, by the MacTaggert clan. They refused to obey your order and open the Void,” I informed him, slowly straightening my spine, and looking up at his enraged face. “I intended to stay and see my orders through, then I heard news that I knew I must return to tell your majesty.”
I knew I had him in my hand now. Shaw was on the edge of his seat.
“Yes?” he barked.
“Charles Xavier has been captured by the fae Queen, he was stolen from the South on the orders of Queen Moira MacTaggert and passed through the void as a symbol of their accord.”
“That Northern Bitch!” Shaw roared, jumping to his feet.
Emma had insisted we do this in public, and I now agreed. I was starting to think that maybe Shaw didn’t give a damn about what had happened to Charles, and with him missing, it was easier than having to keep him in line. But having his honour status as King demeaned by another monarch, who had captured his consort, wasn’t something he could ignore.
“I will kill her with my own hands!” he screamed, leaving those around him cowering. “My armour! Fetch my armour!”
We waited. The King’s army battle ready, waiting for their orders. The king himself, sitting in armour upon his throne, his sword in hand. I knew what was coming. We all did, every last citizen knew what we were waiting for. There was little point marching until the rules had been set. This was a war between the South and the Fae, and North would be crushed if it did not fall upon its knees, surrender it’s Queen and beg forgiveness. But still, the enemy needed to be on the field, and so we waited.
The fae would show their hand soon; after all, they had the tactical advantage.
“Time moves faster in the fae realm Erik, you know this. For every day that passes for us, it is weeks there. For Charles, he’s been a captive for a month, maybe more. A lot of things happen in a month,” Emma explained calmly, as we sat in the great hall, trying to ignore the stares from those around us, and trying to eat. “Whatever happens, don’t react. Because Shaw will know, I promise you.”
I nodded. Something had told us both, that the call to war would come today. We’d felt it, and now, we were steeling ourselves for when the herald walked through the doors. I’d sent Raven to Emma’s apartments to wait. I didn’t know what was going to happen here, and I didn’t want her in the middle of it. And then, sure enough… there it came.
The small man shuffled to the front of the room, bowed deeply to King Shaw and waited for silence. Shaw watched him with shrewd and darting eyes. The letter the man held had come from the fae realm, I could tell and so could everyone else, for the way it shimmered and seemed transparent in the man’s hand.
“Go on,” Shaw prompted in a clipped tone. He’d lost control over the situation, and if I had been him, I’d have insisted it be read in private. But Shaw was not a subtle man, nor sometimes, a very insightful one.
The man gulped and began to read, his hands and voice shaking as he did so. I felt sorry for him, and did not envy him this task. He knew it was not going to make his King happy, hardly anything ever did.
“Dear King Sebastian Shaw of the South Lands, I have decided it is about time that you retired from that title, and vacated your seat. Indeed, it is over due. I give you this warning in advance of my attack for I feel it will do little to damage the outcome. I shall be sitting where you sit in a matter of days. I shall send my King…” the man paused and looked up at Shaw horrified.
“Go on,” Shaw prompted once more, only this time through gritted teeth.
“My King… King Charles Xavier, to meet your army…”
“What?” Shaw exploded, jumping up from his throne as if on fire and snatching the letter out of the man’s hand. It shimmered in the light, and the man cowered on the floor. “That little… I’m going to fucking kill him! Guards to your horses, we ride North!”
There was complete panic in the hall as people started to realise they would soon be under attack. I didn’t know where to turn, I hadn’t wanted to stay here, but Emma had wanted to be sure what direction Shaw would move in. The betrayal from Charles, as he saw it, had pushed him completely over the edge.
I hurried back to Emma’s apartment in complete shock, knowing that the country was now preparing for war against a force it couldn’t even image. I couldn’t imagine it. The fae were so shrouded in mystery that I couldn’t predict what was coming. But although the world I knew was about to be changed forever, all I could think of was Charles. What was happening to him? Was he happy? He was King of the fae, leading an army against his home, his life, his sister… no, I couldn’t imagine what he was feeling.
King of the fae…. No, he was mine. It all had to be a mistake. A lie. Something invented to anger Shaw. Charles would never betray me. Never. He couldn’t. Our bond wouldn’t let him.
As soon as I stepped through the door, Raven was upon me.
“He’s the king of the fae?” she screamed at me. I grabbed her arm and dragged her into a room where she could scream without anyone overhearing her, slamming the door behind us. “What the fuck Erik? How could you let this happen?”
“This isn’t my fault!” I protested. I could understand her anger and how frightened she must be, but I really didn’t need this right now.
“Yes it is!” she shouted. “If you hadn’t bee such an idiot in the first place, this never would have happened. Instead, now my brother is some fairy Queen’s bitch!”
I turned away from her. She loved Charles, but she would never understand how I was feeling right now. I couldn’t function without Charles, and nothing mattered unless he was with me. I couldn’t image a world where I never saw him again, and I knew, right then that I would do whatever it took to get him back.
“Raven… I’m about to fight a war to get Charles back… don’t you dare tell me that I don’t care,” I told her, before walking away from her. “I’m ready to die if I have to.”
She gaped at me, and then pulled her dagger from her scabbard.
“I’m warning you Lehnsherr…” she said pointing the blade at me. “If you don’t save him, I’ll make sure you do die.”
I scowled at her.
“Quite honestly Raven, if I lose Charles, I’ll be grateful for your blade.”
Chapter 19: A Forgotten Past
Erik, Raven and Emma, go to the Fae realm to 'rescue' Charles. Only things are not what they expect.
Well... I'me alive!! I am super sorry for the long delay in getting this chapter up. But I hated it, battled with it, then just when I thought I was on track I got hijacked by the BBC Sherlock fandom. Moffat!
So... then I hated this chapter some more. Decided to rewrite it completely, and we made up in the end. :D
I have a feeling that there are some typos in this chapter, but I just NEED to post it now!! Update at last.
It had been three months since I had woken up to nothingness, and sometimes I still felt empty and frightened. If I stopped and thought deeply, the emptiness inside my mind startled me, but as the days ticked by, I was started to fill the spaces with new memories. As time went by, I found that I was no longer being avoided by the occupants of the palace, and as people began to speak to me, I found myself settle into my life.
But still, I felt guilty. Angel tried her very best to try and remind me of our life together, before my fall, but it was just like looking into blackness. I overheard her one time complaining to someone behind a closed door, and I stopped to listen, knowing I shouldn’t.
“It’s been three months, and he doesn’t believe anything I tell him. You said this would work! It’s like there is something stopping him from being mine,” she lamented woefully. She was not a woman who was used to being thwarted, and I was sorry that I was causing her pain.
I walked away. I couldn’t help how I felt towards her, which was nothing of what she wanted from me. I admired her, she was kind, and yet, in other ways completely ruthless. She knew that a war was coming, and I knew, she expected me to play a part in it. Apparently I knew many secrets of the South, but right now, I couldn’t for the life of me remember a single one of them. She hadn’t reproached me yet for being unable to recall any of our previous life together, but I knew she soon would.
Angel had three young children, two boys and a girl, none of them older than nine years old I guessed, but they seemed to measure time a little differently here. She had assured me that none of these children were mine, and I felt a weight lift from me. I felt as if I as far too young for children, and wouldn’t have forgiven myself for forgetting my children’s faces. But they were sweet, and I found I spent most of my time with them, and it was their innocent chatter that taught me the most about our lives. They were the only people I didn’t feel guilty around for not knowing anything, since they seemed to enjoy teaching me.
“Why do you have wings,” I asked as we sat together in the courtyard. “And I don’t?”
The youngest, a girl with long dark hair and a face like a little doll, looked at me with exasperation.
“Because you’re a human silly. You came here from the other side. Where the horrible man lives.”
“The horrible man?” I asked. This sounded ominous.
“She means King Shaw,” her brother Gabe, answered for her. “He wants to kill us, doesn’t he?”
“I don’t know,” I replied looking away, trying not to notice their eager faces. “I don’t know a King Shaw…”
“But mama says you do know him, and that you can help us not die. She says the horrible King is coming for us, but you’ll stop him,” Gabe insisted with complete conviction and more faith in me than I felt.
I wondered what kind of person I had been before this had happened to me, since everyone seemed to have very high hopes for me. I left them to their attendants, and walked away to be alone. Why did I feel so alone?
I continued to walk through a dark fog of confusion for another two months, until I gave up trying to make sense of things and just started to accept my life as it was. Clearly whatever had been my past had been lost, and I tried to tell myself that this wasn’t terrible; I had the chance to start again. People here were kind, and they wanted to make me happy. It was ungrateful of me to keep fighting everything. I tried my best to make peace with myself, but then everything changed in a heartbeat.
Angel was seated on her throne, her wings were flicked out behind her, catching the light and seemingly filled with rainbows. I watched her carefully, her poise and her grace were hypnotic and although I had so far failed in loving her, I could not ignore how fascinating she was in a wholly unearthly way. I supposed this was only natural for me to react in such away, I had been born in the human realm, or so I had been told, and I was not the same as these beautiful beings around me. I was flesh and blood, human, and mortal in a way that these Fae would never understand. But still, I could see that I was changing, becoming more alike to them every every passing day.
My skin, which had never been dark, was turning paler still, my eyes were brighter blue, I felt lighter all over, as if my bones were being remained from something airlight and stronger, but dispite it all, nothing could touch the cold emptiness which held on tight to my heart. I looked down at my hands now, I was becoming like them, a Fae, no one needed to tell me that. I knew that if I remained here forever, I’d change completely, little by little.
“My Queen, there are intruders in your lands, across the Southern boarders, the gates controlled by the MacTaggert humans,” the Fae who spoke was calm, his voice cutting through the chatter of the hall, turning the room silent. I shifted on my seat, watched those around me, and finally looked up at my Queen.
“Bring them to me,” Angel ordered. “Unharmed,” she added as the man bowed to her.
Angel’s eyes found me and looked into mine for a moment. Although she was far away, I knew I had heard her in my mind, her voice, telling me to be calm. I could feel my confused expression, my eyebrows pulled together, creasing my face. Surely I had imagined that, but it had sounded so real. I panicked me more than anything, more even than the thought of intruders into our lands, and I turned to the Fae beside me. He was also one of Angel’s consorts, and much older and wiser than I.
“Intruders?” I asked him apprehensively.
"Mages, from the otherside. Sometimes they come here… although, not for many hundreds of human years… Usually reckless young ones, they always make good sport.”
“Human’s are much more fertile than the Fae… I am sure you have noticed the lack of children in the court. A human-mage is always of interest.”
“You keep them prisoners here?”
The Fae laughed, and looked much amused by my ignorance.
“Look around you Charles… if you were offered a life of pleasure here, would you want to leave?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. Effectively I had been, but sometimes I felt I would be happy to leave here and never come back, and then at others, the tales of the human world frightened me. I didn’t know what I wanted.
So I waited for something to happen, and at last, the door opened, but the people who walked into the hall were not at all what I expected. They were not captives at any stretch of the mind, they strolled forwards seemingly pushing those around them backwards. I tried to get a good look at them, but I was too far back, and the Fae in front of me determined to get in my way. I glimpsed only a woman, dressed in pale grey, a long cloak around her shoulders, striding behind a man, dressed all in black, with a determined face. Behind both of them was a younger girl, with long blonde hair, a wary look on her face, and her hand on a dagger at her belt.
I sat back in my seat, suddenly uncomfortable, and willing myself to get away from these people. I was most fearful of the male mage’s dark mysteriousness, which seemed overtly hostile in this place of light and beautiful things. He stopped in front of Angel, and gave her a curt bow.
“Madam,” he said into the silence of the room. “You know why we have come.”
Angel did not reply, but there was a sorrowful look on her face as she turned her eyes in my direction once more. I felt my heart begin to hammer, I did not want to be called to stand beside her now, this mage alarmed me, called something from deep inside me, and laid it open and filled it with fear. I wouldn’t look at him.
“Charles,” Angel said, her voice just as musical as always, but I knew I was not the only one to hear the slight warning it held within. She could keep smiling, but there was joy to be had today.
I stood hesitantly, and felt the mages eyes find me, all their gazes so intense that I could not look their way. I kept my eyes on Angel as I walked towards her, bowing before her, trying not to get to near to our uninvited guests. But my presence had had an alarming effect upon the mage, I could feel his eyes on me, full of hunger, full of longing, and it made me shiver.
He stared at me without moving, as if he was taking in every inch of my face as I tried not to meet his eye. I felt as if I had fallen into some kind of trance, as he slowly moved towards me. I wanted to run, but nothing happened. One step at a time, his face became more illuminated by the light of the dusky sun through the window behind me, and I caught my breath. This was crazy, to stand silent and unmoving before this astonishing man.
“Charles,” he said at last, his voice which had been commanding and sharp before, was almost breathless now. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
He reached out to touch me, and I flinched away from him, stumbling backwards slightly in my surprise. I looked up at Angel, to see what I was supposed to do, but her face appeared pained. I wished that she might guide me now, but I’d never felt more alone here.
“What’s the matter Charles?” he asked, as if was the one behaving abnormally. As if I was the one who had suddenly arrived, and thrown the world into chaos.
“How do you know my name?” I demanded, suddenly finding my voice, and surprised to hear myself so angry. My heart was pounding, and my legs were shaking. He was doing something to me, he had to be, some human mage trick. Making me weak, and helpless before him.
His fingers gently brushed over my arm and he stepped towards me. I looked up into his face, and felt that out of all the strangers I had met over the past few weeks, this man was the only one who made me feel as if I belonged somewhere.
“I’m sorry…” I began. I didn’t know why I felt the need to explain myself to this intruder. “But something happened to me, and I can’t remember anything from my past. I don’t remember you... I’m sorry.”
The man started, and continued to stare at me. His grip on my arm tightened slightly. I wanted to pull away from him, but it was the look of despair mirrored on the two women’s faces behind me that kept me rooted.
“But, surely Charles, you remember me?” the young girl asked. I stared at her, wishing that something might happen. That the fog in my mind would lift, but there was nothing.
Remember me, remember me, remember me, I could hear her voice chanting in my mind, begging me as if her heart was breaking. The sound of her inside of my heart was again startling, and now I realised this wasn’t something of my imagining, but real. But was I doing this? Or was she?
“I’m sorry, but I don’t,” I said, stepping away, the mage letting me go reluctantly. “May I leave now?” I asked of Angel. She nodded her consent, and I ashamedly fled the room.
“What have you done to him?” I heard the mage asking, no, demanding of Angel. His voice was threatening, and it vibrated through me leaving me feeling weak. I heard Angel laugh lightly in response, obviously not affected like I was.
“Oh Erik Lehnsherr,” she replied amused. “He’s not yours anymore.”
I had run all the way to my room, and debated hiding under the bed. Instead I had sat by the window, and allowed my nerves to calm down. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the mage Erik’s face out of my mind. I felt uncontrollably attracted to him, even though I had no desire to meet with him again. The fact that I was supposed to know him, alarmed me even more, and I couldn’t bare the pressure of having forgotten someone else. I knew that this was going to plague me now; I was going to torture myself with trying to pull memories out of the blackness in my mind.
I stayed in my room until I couldn’t bare it anymore and went in search of some answers. These mages hadn’t come here to hurt me, and who was to say that they couldn’t be the ones who finally helped me? Perhaps Erik Lehnsherr was the key to my memories returning, or at least, he couldn’t make them any worse. Not to mention the fact that he’d travelled through the Void to see me… That had to mean something, surely?
I found the mages in the sunlit courtyard, they seemed to be enjoying the hospitality of the court, eating and drinking what had been offered. However when I stepped out of the shadows and before them, they paused in their talking, their expressions surprised to see me, and then they stood up form their seats in respect for me.
“Charles,” Erik said stepping around the table and coming towards me. He walked as if he was being pulled towards me.
“Don’t,” I warned him, before he came any closer. “I…” But I didn’t know what I wanted to say to these people, and the expression in Erik’s eyes was painful to see. I wished more than ever that I could remember him.
“Do you want to join us?” The blonde woman asked me, before her voice felt its way into my mind. You do not need to be afraid of us Charles, we all love you…
“He doesn’t remember us, does he Erik?” The young girl commented as if I wasn’t there. “Its true… I couldn’t believe before… what do we do?”
“Here,” Erik said ignoring the girl’s question and handing me a drink. “I suppose you have lots of questions for us?”
I sipped the drink, it was sweet and cold, some kind of fruit juice I didn’t recall having tasted before. I took a few more sips, before I felt a wave of tiredness wash over me.
“Just a few,” I replied, trying to stifle a yawn, but it was no good. My eyes were closing and just before I fell forward into the table I realised that I had been drugged.
I had just enough awareness about me to know that I was being carried in someone’s arms, and instinctively I clung to my kidnapper to keep myself from falling. Oddly I didn’t feel as scared as perhaps I couldn’t have, maybe that was the drug they had given me? But instead I just glided out of one life, and into another, watching the world rush past me unable to do anything to stop it. Then, before I could even realise what was happening, I was being thrown over the back of a horse and Erik was climbing up behind me.
I looked around for someone to save me, but there was no one. I had never seen the place so silent and empty, and then we were riding hard. Out of the city gates and then through some kind invisible wall.
I felt myself fall back against his chest, unable to hold on any more, or keep myself steady. But in response, his arm held me close and upright as the horse met with some kind of invisible barrier keeping the two worlds apart. I felt my head spin, my stomach was churning, whatever I had been given was starting to disagree with me, and then, with a flash of blinding light everything changed. The world he had brought me to was harsh and cold, and the horse kept galloping hard.
“We need to get out of here,” the blonde woman shouted back towards me and Erik from over her shoulder. “We should take the lay-line to Westchester and ride to the Dark Keep. The mage will have been called to Shaw by now, it will be empty… it’ll be the safest place.”
“Good idea,” Erik replied, his voice vibrating through me. “King Shaw will already been marching this way.”
“King Shaw?” I asked once the horses had slowed and I started to feel a little bit more like myself again. I could feel my mind desperately clinging to the name, trying to search for a face to place it to. Suddenly something clicked in my mind. “He is marching already? No, we were going to attack first. I have to warn Angel!”
“She already knows Charles,” Erik replied, so close to my ear that all he needed to do was whisper and I would have heard him. His hand on my chest flexed slightly, as he held me even closer. “Trust me Charles.”
“Alright,” I replied, feeling tired once more, and trying to stay awake by looking around at the barren country-side around us. “But, I have to help her.” No one protested against this, but I could feel their urgency to get wherever it was they were taking me. I had the feeling however, that they would have promised me anything, just to get away from this place and for my co-operation.
“I’ve missed you,” whispered to me as I nodded my head back into a dreamlike state.
I felt though I had missed him too, and realised that the dull aching loneliness in me had melted away.
Chapter 20: What to do with Charles
Erik takes Charles back to the Black Keep, but still Charles remains lost to him. But the arrival of an unexpected visitor shows them the path they will be taking from now on.
Thank you very much to everyone reading, here we go, new chapter! :D
“King Shaw is riding to the North,” I said, my voice striking silence through the room as I stalked forward. I ignored all the harsh faces around me, watching me with their wary eyes. Without Charles by my side and without his temperance and steady touch upon me, I knew I cut a more intimidating figure. “With him an army determined to spill Northern blood.”
We had travelled though the lay-lines and ridden our horses into exhaustion to be here. We had begged and threatened our way through the city gates, and finally strode into the Queen’s great hall as if we had been summoned. Such was the clear path before us now, as the people melted away into the background. Maybe they could sense that my anger was merely contained beneath a thin surface, surely it showed itself plain in my eyes.
I could feel that Raven was frightened, walking next to me, her eyes darted from enemy faces to the weapons held ready in their hands. She was counting her foe, just like I had taught her, planning her attack and considering her exit. It was time well spent, because I wasn’t sure how this meeting was going to go. All I knew was, we needed to convince this Queen to help us. Everything depended upon us winning here, we couldn’t afford to lose, but between us all, the desire not to spill blood here was paramount.
Having betrayed us once, this Queen, understandably had been reluctant to see us. I supposed she had feared such an attack as this, and she’d been wise to do so. I would’ve liked nothing more than to show her the sharp edge of my blade, but that would not win Charles back to me. We wanted to provoke a war, not a petty fight.
As I’d predicted, she’d brought her little pet mage with her, the red-headed boy who had guided me and Charles into the fae realm and separated us with his trickery. He stared at me now, but his expression was filled with guilt, and I wondered what his powers might be. I didn’t want to test them unless I had to, but I had a reputation, and along with Emma at my side, no one would dare to harm us. Attacking us first would be needlessly reckless.
“Erik Lehnsherr, what a pleasure it is to see you again, please, make yourself at home,” Moira replied with a snide smile, her sarcasm wasn’t veiled at all.
She looked more of a Queen today than I’d seen her before, seated on her throne, her subjects before her, ready to rise to her defence. Dressed in a dark red velvet gown, her dark hair loose over her shoulders.
“I have no intention of staying here,” I replied shortly, “And I’ve already explained my business.”
“No, you’ve simply threatened me with rumours. Why should I believe you? Why would your king attack us? His quarrel is with the Fae,” Moria argued, her eyes sweeping over me, looking for the truth.
I could see that the idea of an advancing army heading her way, had alarmed her. She was poised ready to leap from her seat, ready to call for her spies, for anyone, who might confirm or deny my words.
“You have allowed the Fae to take a very dangerous prisoner, something that will not be forgiven by my King,” I informed her.
“I let Charles into the fae lands as he wanted… would you rather I’d refused you both?”
Patience Erik, we will win this. They gain nothing here by making enemies of us. I heard Emma’s voice in my mind, steadying me. She was watching my back here, standing in the shadows and looking for what I couldn’t see. I imagined that she was feeling through the unprotected minds around us, searching for threats.
“You have made an enemy your majesty. King Shaw will not suffer this slight in silence. His war mage has been stolen and created King of the Fae. This is your doing, and now you are in the way gatekeeper.”
Moira looked at me as if she didn’t believe us, then she turned to Sean and Emma told me he was confirming our claim about Charles being well and truly captured. I knew then that we had her. She had delivered Charles to the fae Queen, and so, challenged King Shaw’s power. She’d called this war down on her people by choosing a side, whether knowingly or not. She should never have opened the gates, and we should never have come here in the first place. Seeking help from the Fae had been an insane idea from the start.
“What do you want?” she asked, settling back in her seat, and eyeing me suspiciously.
“I want you to order your mages to open the gate for me. I want Charles back,” I told her, fixing her with my most direct stare. I didn’t care how many people were in the room; as far as I was concerned this was between me and her. “If you agree, we will help you and your people. Refuse, and we will return to Shaw, and march upon your City with an army. Either way, I will get what I want.”
She watched me with a hard face. I couldn’t read her, but Emma could. I waited for something to happen, and sure enough, like a true Queen she gave us her terms.
“I will help you,” she said looking a little less regal now, and a little more afraid. “But I want the Southern crown in return. If Charles’ Xavier is as important as you claim, then this is not an unfair bargain. You will make that happen for me, and I will assist you in my turn.”
I looked at Emma. She was shrewd and crafty, having spent all her life with King Shaw; she was not about to fall prey to another monarch. She nodded briefly at me. The fae Queen will want this too, the Southern crown, but we will worry about that later… First, we need Charles back. We don’t want him with the fae when the war starts. God knows what they will use him for.
I nodded at her in return. She was right. This was not a fight Shaw was going to win, not once the fae stepped through the void and the MacTaggert’s marched South. He was marching upon rage, and this queen would move with cold calculating planning. Emma’s equally shrewd mind had foreseen that there were alliances to be formed, and a promise now was a small price to pay to a Queen who might die long before she came to claim it. And if she did come to rule the South, then she would be no worse a ruler than King Shaw. And in the South, we were a people who needed someone to follow.
She knows she must side with the fae Queen, in order to win, Emma spoke into my mind. If we take Charles, the fae will want him back. We will be in danger until the day this all ends. We will have no King, and no army to protect us. We’ll be against them all.
But for course, nothing had gone to plan from then on. Not that any one of us had expected it to. The fae hadn’t been expecting us, that much had been successful, but I had not expected the drain on our magic to be so severe once we’d stepped through the void. It was like being drained of everything, losing touch with a part of my soul that had always been with me. I could still reach for my powers, but they didn’t flow through me like before.
The fae realm was like nothing I had ever encountered before, but I couldn’t let that show. We’d walked into that hall, stepped in front of that fae Queen like we had Moira, with all the bravdo and courage we could muster between us. Light-headed, weakened, we’d held our nerve, daring them to try us.
But then, there was Charles. Standing in front of me, a lost look in his eyes as if he’d been waiting for me to find him. The shock of seeing no recognition in his expression, fear in the place of the trust I had worked so hard to gain from him, might have broken me. Emma whispered that his mind had been closed, his powers dampened. She’d fought her way in, reawakened him, but inside, he was filled with dark emptiness. Fae magic. Blocking his memories of his life before his capture, like the moon eclipsing the sun.
Still my desire for him burned, stronger than anything I had ever known. All I’d wanted to do was hold him, but he hadn’t even known me.
So, I’d stolen him. I didn’t care anymore about what was right. He was mine, he belonged with me, not in that place, where nothing was real, with magic pouring from the walls. I wouldn’t surrender to this fae Queen who had wiped his mind and left him lost.
I shook the recent memories from my mind, and instead, concentrated on the ride and the feel of Charles leaning back against me. I held him tight, feeling an aching of sadness as I did so. Without his memory of me, he let me hold him without a fight. I tried to tell myself that this meant something. That our bond lasted through even this. But I feared that when he did remember, he might push me away.
We reached the Keep, and found it deserted. The mage who had replaced me, had abandoned his station to join his king, and we were mercifully alone. I helped Charles off the horse gently, and he slipped into my arms like a ragdoll, his head against my shoulder, his eyes still closed. Emma regarded Charles with such unguarded affection, as I carried him inside, that I felt a stab of jealousy. They had shared more of a life together than I’d with Charles, and I hated to think of all that I had given away.
I lay him down upon his old bed, his hands gripping my arms and for a moment not letting me go. The room hadn’t changed, and I hoped that when he awoke, something about it might help him shake the fae magic and remember us.
I left Raven to help him into bed, and joined Emma downstairs in the kitchen. She had the torches lit against the coming dark night, and a fire in the grate. The kettle was whistling over the hearth, and she was busy looking for anything edible in the cupboards.
“I need to go back to the South City,” she said, setting the hot mug of what looked like tea in front of me. “I the morning, I will take Raven home. We need eyes in Shaw’s camp, and we can’t hide our disappearance for any longer.”
It was a dangerous plan. Shaw would have noticed my absence, and as soon as word got out of Charles’ disappearance, he would know I was against him. I knew Emma was hoping he would only suspect me of treachery, if they returned, having pretending to be scouting the North. She and Raven would fight Shaw from within his camp.
We now had a crown to give to Moira, and who knew what the fae Queen would demand from us in return for our lives.
“I’ll stay here. Charles is no use to anyone if he can’t remember anything, and Shaw will never forgive him. If things go wrong, I’ll take him back to the fae Queen…” I said, rubbing my hands over my face in an attempt to ward off my need for sleep. Emma looked at me sharply, as if I was crazy. After all our hard work to free him, I knew it was ridiculous to contemplate returning Charles to his captors, but what else could I do? I knew Shaw would kill him if he could. Moira would only use him as leverage in her precarious position between two great empires, and I couldn’t protect him alone. The only option was the fae Queen, who’d made him her King. “He was safe there if nothing else and I’ll meet you on the battlefield if I must.”
“You’d give him back to her, to save his life?” Emma asked, the surprise in her voice was obvious. “What about your life? You’ll die without him Erik. No mage can live without their bond-mate.”
I looked away from her. I didn’t need to say I would happily die to keep Charles safe. She could see it in every fibre of me, but it left an awkward silence between us.
“Alright,” she said at last, sitting in front of me. “Charles is the fae King… or one of them, there is always more than one fae King. He has power there now, whether he wants it or not. The best shot of defeating Shaw is for the MacTaggerts to join with the fae, and march together. Maybe that was the fae Queen’s plan all along? Maybe not. But maybe Charles can make it happen? He belongs to both worlds now.”
I looked up at her, feeling the venom in my blood rise to the surface. I was sick of everyone having a claim on Charles, when the only one who truly loved him was me. He was mine, no one would ever want him the way I did. The way that I needed him. Emma was right, a mage without their bondmate was no mage. They were a lost soul, doomed to wander the earth in misery until their last day. But to keep Charles safe, I’d had suffered that pain for eternity.
“He belongs to me,” I growled. I heard Raven step into the room behind me.
“Erik?” Raven said tentatively. I turned to see that there were tears in her eyes. “He will wake up… wont he?”
I stood, and walked towards her, touching her shoulder as I went by. It was Emma who would comfort her, I was used to no one right now. As I climbed the stairs to find somewhere to sleep, I imagined Charles waking and coming to find me. Just like he had in the North. I felt excitement run through me as I remembered his touch upon me, the feel of his lips as he’d kissed me.
I wanted him now, my hands desperate to touch him. I knew all the pain would go away if only I could. Just one more taste of him, I wanted to hear him sigh under me, look up at me with those blue eyes. I wanted him to need me, shake from want of my touch on him. But I was shaking myself now, my hands trembling as I pulled my clothes away from my burning skin.
My imagination was making me desperate for another type of touch, my own upon myself. I barely made it to the bed, before my unsteady hand found its way to my aching cock. God, I thought as I roughly ran my hand up the shaft, I was a pitiful mess. The friction I gave myself wasn’t pleasant, too hasty, and I fought for a moment to make myself stop. But the image of Charles before me just kept on smiling, and suddenly his hand was where mine was, tender, loving, as he pushed me onto my back, crawling over me, his head bowed to place kisses on my neck. “Erik,” he breathed against my skin.
Call to me Erik, please, I need you… I heard his voice again, only this time I knew this wasn’t my imagination. Charles had found me, his powers snaking into my mind, pushing me towards the edge of my stolen gratification.
“Oh, Charles,” I called into the darkness around me. Realising that I had done just as Charles had asked of me, called his name into the night.
It was the strangest of feelings, to have him there, inside of my mind as I tipped myself over in oblivion. I came with a surprised gasp, my hand wet and my chest heaving. I felt guilty immediately, for having captured Charles’ dreaming mind and used him so. I could still feel him there, a ghost of something at the edge of my awareness.
I am so very cold Erik, and the moon so bright. For a moment I thought I was with you… but, now its so very cold.
I sat bolt upright. The vision of the grounds surrounding the tower had been so vivid; that I knew it had not simply been my imagination. Charles was projecting. He was out in the cold, walking, his feet bare, his skin turning white.
Panicking, I dressed as quick as I could manage and hurried after him. I knew where he was; the vision he’d shown me was true. Moonlight between the branches of a large tree. Under the large oak tree, Charles was lying on the cold ground, like a corpse; he stared straight up into the sky above.
“Charles? What are you doing? It’s freezing out here,” I shouted, pulling my cloak from my shoulders as I neared him, then draping it around him as I helped him to his feet.
I had only just let go of him, when something slammed into me from the side at high speed and knocked me to the ground. Charles had been pushed aside also, stumbling back against the tree, and staring at the man who was ready to charge once again. I knew him at one, I’d fought him before, a long time ago for Shaw’s amusement.
Logan flicked his long metal claws out from his hands, and snarled at me. His hair was just as wild as I remembered, and his stance was threatening.
"Lehnsherr,” he growled, as I struggled back onto my feet and made sure I placed myself in-between Logan and Charles. “I’ve been looking forward to this.”
I refused to rise to the challenge in Logan’s voice, instead I watched the person that seemed to be materialising behind him. Queen Angel of the Fae appeared in a sudden burst of bright light, her iridescent wings fluttering behind her back. At the touch of her hand on his shoulder, Logan’s claws retracted into his hands, and he relaxed his stance.
“Hello Erik, you didn’t think you could leave without saying goodbye, did you?” she said, her eyes sliding past me to Charles. I wasn’t sure who that question was for, but her attention was all for Charles, who had walked to the side of me now.
“Angel you took my memories,” Charles accused her, but his voice was full of disappointment. “Why did you do that to me?”
I stood aside as she walked towards Charles. I knew she meant him no harm, but still, I wasn’t about to let my guard down. She raised her hands and cupped Charles’ face.
“I gave you a place to belong. You were a lost mage, un-apprenticed, unbound, too valuable to let pass me by,” she explained with a sad smile. “But I see that I was wrong.”
Her wings began to fold in on themselves until they became a part of her skin, like an inking. The strange glow around her started to fade, and she became just an ordinary girl.
“This is where I belong,” Charles replied, taking her hands and guiding them away until he held her before him. “I can’t live a lost life with you.”
“I am sorry Charles, but you are what you are. My King, and I won’t let you leave me now,” she assured him sweetly, as if nothing Charles could say was going to make any difference to the outcome.
I watched Logan, he was watching me in return. I knew he wanted nothing more than to attack me, take his revenge for the fight I had won in the past. I’d caused his incarceration, his need to flee, and now I knew where he’d been hiding. He was Angel’s man now, ready to defend her.
“Angel,” Charles replied carefully. “I can’t go with you. Shaw is marching on the North, and my sister and friends need me. I cannot hide in the other realm…”
“You would be safe with me,” the Queen insisted. I glared at her.
“Shaw wants to kill you. And the Northern Queen. I can serve you better from here… besides…,” Charles replied, his eyes drifting to me. I knew he was speaking to her now with his powers, and I knew what he was saying from the expression on his face. He was bound to me, in every way, he could no more leave me that I him. “You need to make a deal with the Northern Queen, Angel. She wants the South crown, promise her that and she’ll open the gates for your army. If not, Shaw will fight her, and invade your Kingdom before you have a chance to get through the void… Please Angel.”
I didn’t know how Charles had put all of these pieces together. I supposed he must have been reading all our minds on the journey here, having found the last few days in my memories.
The Queen looked at him as if she truly cared for what he had to say, and was starting to realise that she wasn’t going to be able to keep him.
“This is true?” she asked at length, looking at me. “Shaw took my call to war?”
“You captured Charles, and attacked his authority and position as ruler,” I told her. “He could do very little but call his soldiers to march on the North.”
“You will fight with me Charles? You are still my King,” Angel asked, almost in desperation, turning away from me. She knew she was losing Charles, but I admired her choice not to threaten or fight us. I knew that Charles might always be a part of her world now, but not in the way she might like.
“Yes, but you have to let me go Angel,” Charles replied in earnest. “I can’t be what you want me to be, but I can still be your friend.”
She looked at him as if his words pained her. For all she was so small, I could sense how dangerous she was. I marvelled at how Charles didn’t mind his words before her. He stood his ground, even though I knew she could kill me easily and take him anyway. I had a chance against Logan and his claws, but not a fae Queen. Even away from her realm with weakened magic, she was the most powerful of all of us.
“I can see that… I only meant for you to be happy Charles… But if you will still stand with me against this King, I will set you free,” she promised. It wasn’t much of a freedom as far as I could see. She still called his service to her, but she could have demanded much more.
Charles had given her the key to victory. Laid out her strategy. His loyalty was to her, and that was obvious to us all.
“It will take Shaw a week to reach the North,” Angel informed us, regarding Charles with great contemplation. “I will give you three days to discover his plans, then return to me… In the meantime, take what I stole from you, and try to forgive me.”
Without warning, Angel stepped away, and disappeared with Logan, leaving us to the moonlight. I turned to Charles to suggest we went back inside, but found he’d collapsed to his knees. Staring out into nothing, his hands over his ears as if he could hear something awful that I could not. I crouched down beside him and waited. I dared not to touch him, afraid of what might happen if I did. Finally he looked at me, with his eyes reflecting the bright light of the moon.
“I can remember Erik,” he whispered with surprise. “I can remember everything… and it hurts.”